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How two airlines are offering budget flights from Berlin to the USA

Imogen Goodman
Imogen Goodman - [email protected]
How two airlines are offering budget flights from Berlin to the USA
The New York skyline at dusk. Photo by Mark Boss on Unsplash

Starting later this year, flights from Berlin to New York and back could cost as little as €300. Here's how two Nordic airlines are offering budget services, and we look at other flight connections between Germany and the States.

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With almost 30 years expiring between the first plans and its completion, Berlin's BER airport was a long time coming - but now there are signs that the capital's airport could finally be turning into the international transport hub it was intended to be.

From this winter, Iceland budget airline Play will be offering return flights from Berlin to New York for just €300 - providing passengers are fine with a brief stopover in Reykjavik. 

The first operator to run direct flights out of BER to New York, Norse Airlines, announced in spring that it would be transitioning to a seasonal service between the US and the German capital. 

Over winter, flights out of Berlin with Norse will fly directly to Miami instead, with the New York service resuming next year in summer. At the lowest end, the Nordic airline offers one-way tickets for €179 to New York and €199 to Miami, though the availability of these tickets is relatively limited.

READ ALSO: Everything you need to know as an American moving to Germany

Passengers can also choose between the Norse Economy or Norse Premium cabins, and pick tariffs depending on the level of comfort and flexibility they want. With the Flextra tariff, for example, hold baggage, two in-flight meals, better seats and cheaper re-booking are on offer. 

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On Play's end, CEO Birgir Jonsson says the low prices are possible due to the airline's distinctive model, which brings passengers from throughout Europe to Iceland's capital in under three hours, and then flies them across the Atlantic in five.

It also operates smaller aircraft that are quicker to fill, and offers a 'no frills' service without wifi or plug sockets, with hold luggage costing €99 extra. 

"Our fleet is young and economical, we don't have a business class," Jonsson told regional newspaper Tagesspiegel.

The airline also avoids landing at well-known airports that are pricier to dock in: "We don't fly to New York JFK, but to Stewart," Play's CEO added. "We don't fly to Toronto, we fly to Hamilton."

Previous attempts to create a budget offer for long-haul travel have fallen flat - and Norse has already had to ditch two of its US services out of Berlin this year - but the two Nordic airlines are bullish about their chances of keeping low-cost, long-distance travel between Berlin and the USA on offer. 

"We have costs that are about half the capital costs of other low-cost airlines," CEO Björn Tore Larsen told Tagesspiegel. 

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The airline has also been quick to adapt its schedule to demand, cutting flights to Los Angeles and Fort Lauderdale earlier this year and switching its New York flights to a season service before launching its flights to Miami on December 15th. 

Which airlines offer direct flights from Germany to the US?

Along with the two destinations out of Berlin, three other cities in Germany offer direct flights to the United States: Frankfurt, Munich and Düsseldorf.

In terms of sheer choice, Germany's busiest airport, Frankfurt, is the best city to flight out of to US destinations.

Out of Frankfurt, there are currently 19 direct flights to US cities, including New York, Atlanta, Denver, Miami, Chicago, Seattle and Los Angeles. The main flight operators are Lufthansa, United and Delta airlines.

A Lufthansa aeroplane taxis at Munich airport

A Lufthansa aeroplane taxis at Munich airport. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Sven Hoppe

Flights to New York take just under nine hours and cost around €400 for a return, while flights to Los Angeles take just under 12 hours and cost around €600 for a return on average.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: The airlines that offer direct flights between Berlin and the US

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Munich, meanwhile, is the second best option for people flying to the United States out of Germany.

There are currently direct services to at least 11 US cities out of the Bavarian capital, including to Miami, Washington D.C., New York, Houston, Los Angeles, San Francisco Denver and Chicago.

As you might imagine, flights out of Munich do take a little longer - around half an hour more than flights out of Frankfurt - but prices tend to be relatively similar.

Alternatively, Delta operates direct flights between Düsseldorf and Atlanta.

How many Americans visit Germany each year?

Citizens of the US make up one of the biggest groups of tourists in Germany, with around three million Americans visiting per year in pre-Covid times.

Meanwhile, approximately 2.1 Germans make the trip across the Atlantic to the US each year, with the vast majority of them visiting New York. 

READ ALSO: IN NUMBERS: How important are American tourists to Germany?

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