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Berlin travel from USA-- any tips on best route

I'm in the planning stages of booking flights to Berlin. I noticed there are no non-stop flights from my major airport on the west coast. I thought this must be a Covid issue but when I googled it, apparently, this is common. So what is the best route from SFO? trying avoid long layovers. Many are in the 6 to 7 hour range to over night. Is there somewhere from the East Coast I could fly to Berlin? Or should we fly to a different city and then take a train to Berlin?

Posted by
2080 posts

A lot of people recommend this search site: https://matrix.itasoftware.com/
I just did a quick Google search and it looks like Lufthansa would be one stop at Frankfurt, so you might check out that as a comparison (at four hours by train, I'd just do a three hour layover in Frankfurt).

Posted by
412 posts

For me, personally, my first choice would be flying with Lufthansa with a nonstop flight from SFO to Frankfurt and then a short flight to Berlin, on the same ticket (so you are protected if you miss your Frankfurt-Berlin flight and have to take the next one). I love taking trains but if you're already at Frankfurt airport, your final destination is Berlin, and there are flights from Frankfurt to Berlin that you can buy on the same ticket, flying is the choice that makes sense to me.

I'd privilege this plan because in COVID times, I also think it's much less of a headache to fly nonstop to your destination country -- that way you don't have to worry about transit country requirements and just have to keep track of Germany's requirements, instead of wherever you are transiting through.

The only East Coast city you are likely to find nonstop flights to Berlin from is New York (and even before the pandemic, Delta only flew this route seasonally, and I don't think it has resumed). For historic Cold War-related reasons, Germany's major intercontinental air hubs are Frankfurt and Munich, and even 30 years after reunification Berlin has a relatively low number of long-haul international flights.

In other words, you are likely to have to connect somewhere, and for me I'd personally prefer to connect in Germany.

Posted by
2258 posts

There are very few transatlantic flights to Berlin. As far as i can tell, only one to New York. Another option is to fly to Frankfurt (direct flights from San Fransisco with Lufthansa) and take the train. Other nearby large hubs are Amsterdam (direct flights with KLM) and Copenhagen (direct flights with SAS). Or just fly to a European hub and take a connecting flight to Berlin.

When are you planning to travel? We might see more flights added to schedule as demand increases.

Posted by
33 posts

You didn't say when you are going, some routes are seasonal.

Swissair goes nonstop to Zurich from SFO
KLM has a nonstop to Amsterdam
LH has a nonstop to Munich as well as Frankfurt
Finnair connects through Helsinki
And of course, British Air to London.

I got all of that in just 30 seconds on Google Flights. You are right, doesn't look like any Berlin nonstops. There is one from Newark, but I would have a long flight followed by a longer flight, and if I'm going to miss a connection I'd rather miss it in Europe.

Posted by
17 posts

@shannon -- I got the same through google flights. I just wanted to make sure I wasn't missing anything like something different precovid. Thanks for your help!

Posted by
17 posts

@badger next August 2022. I just look daily to see if something comes up that works for me. I was going to do flights on points but missed the window.

Posted by
17 posts

@andrew yes, prefer non-stop but I understand Berlin is a little different now.. I'll look for connections through Frankfurt.

Posted by
17 posts

@valadephia Yes, I saw that with Luthanusa but right now it is the triple the price of the other airlines. I've been checking on Google flights looks like your website is very similar. I just hoping that I was missing something. I guess, I shouldn't doubt my skills. LOL Maybe it will go down in price at some point.

Posted by
2258 posts

In that case, I'm confident more flights will show up. You are still trying to book very early. Which airline's points are you trying to use?

Posted by
17 posts

@badger any airline would work. I can stay 5 nights before the Rick Steves tour on points including the hotel. I just need to pick an airline to transfer to.

Posted by
4763 posts

I did this searching some months ago for a trip to Berlin next month, and Lufthansa came out on top for the reasons Andrew mentioned. Frankfurt is a good hub and it's easier to deal with just one country's Covid rules. And flying from FRA to Berlin is easier and faster than the train, even including time from BER into the city. I too like to fly straight across to a European hub rather than risk being delayed on the US east coast. My FRA layover is four hours, a little longer than I'd like but with a good cushion for possible arrival or passport control delays.

When I was looking, Lufthansa fares were pretty much the same as BA and other options. That might have changed, and there might be more competition from Seattle than SFO (though I'd be surprised).

Posted by
17 posts

@Dick Thank you for your response. I'm glad to hear you have booked a similar route. I was surprised on the SFO choices. I'm not looking at my exact dates when I search. I search 3 months, 6 months, 9 months out from today plus my trip departure date and look at the prices to see what is trending. Lufthansa still seems more expensive. Same as BA. So.. I wasn't sure if this was Covid related or not (like not as many routes available right now). TAP and Turkish Airlines are the cheapest at from $519 to $650 one way. While Lufthansa, Swiss Air, BA are around $1200 one way at all time periods 3 months out, 6 months out, 9 months out and my trip exact date. Can I ask how far out you purchased and how much you ended up paying? No worries if you feel uncomfortable commenting back.

Posted by
5686 posts

We got November flights SFO-Munich on Lufthansa during a flash sale in September for $675 round trip (regular economy, not basic econony-minus) -- but those fares were not valid past March. And two days later they were gone.
We flew back from Berlin a while back via Zurich (Lufthansa/Swiss) and the layover was reasonable.

Posted by
145 posts

Throwing in my 2 cents here: Coming from Portland, OR I personally really prefer the long-haul direct from the west coast to Europe, then a short haul to my destination, rather than a transcontinental flight to the east coast and a shorter hop over the Atlantic. West coast to East or back are on the order of 5 hours; particularly returning from Europe if I enter the US via EWR/JFK/IAD/ATL that last 5 hour leg to PDX is just Shoot Me Now. Ugh.

Posted by
4763 posts

I hear you, AlanJ! Get me straight to Europe and straight home!

Disneyfreak, I PMed you with the info you wanted. Part of my thinking was avoiding any intermediate stops before Germany in case of Covid rule variations. Keeping it simple, which was worth something to me.

Posted by
17 posts

So I’ve decided I want to fly from my home airport as I live two hours from SFO and they are no direct flights to Berlin from SFO. I might as well do a layover flying out my airport. As I said before I’m just in the planning stages and I’m not booking tickets yet. I am just looking at different routes to see what would work. So I found a flight that goes from my airport to IAD to Berlin and the reverse back from Vienna. Going the layover is 1 hour 40 minutes. Coming back it is 2 hours and 40 minutes. So I know I have to go through customs on the way back and I think that would be plenty of time. Do I need to account for extra time for my layover going? Is 1 hour and 40 minutes enough time?

**. One of the reasons I’m switching to my home airport is that a week ago for a flight I have in November the airline changed my flight from leaving at 9 am to 6 am. We’d have to leave our house at 2 am, So knowing that wouldn’t worked I looked at hotel costs and many around Oakland are charging $50 to park overnight and between that and the airport parking and the rising cost of hotel stays it started being a headache. Plus I have a work meeting the night before so I I couldn’t leave until 8 pm the night before. So…. I just rebooked out of my airport. It has to be a significant savings or time savings for me to book out of a Bay Area airport.

Posted by
9993 posts

First, airlines are still putting together their flight schedules for next August. Wait a bit.

. I was going to do flights on points but missed the window.

This I don't understand. You are ten months away and you think you won't have the ability to get flights on points?

Posted by
17 posts

@Frank--- Normally when you use frequent flier miles there are only so many seats available at the discounted miles requirement. For example, on United going to Berlin I can spend either 70,000 points or 33,000 points to go. The seats available at the 33,000 miles are with long layovers and multiple stops. The one I looked at had a 5 hour 20 minute layover in Denver and then, it had a short layover between Munich and Berlin of 55 minutes (which I doubt be enough time for customs). Returning as similar long layovers on the 33,000 miles seats. So you can book on 70,000 seats but that would be 240,000 miles for us to fly (I would never give up that many miles to fly). You really need to book the day they release the flight so usually around 11 months out. The popular routes will go first at 33,000 miles and then, when they are sold out it goes to 70,000 miles per seat. It is a little different than booking airfare with $$$$. Hope that helps educate you on how it works.

As I said I wasn't booking flights just researching. The others that responded to my post said that there will be no non-stop flights to Berlin from SFO. So I'm looking for other flights. I'll stop asking questions because this group can't handle it. LOL..

Posted by
4555 posts

So I found a flight that goes from my airport to IAD to Berlin and the reverse back from Vienna. Going the layover is 1 hour 40 minutes. Coming back it is 2 hours and 40 minutes. So I know I have to go through customs on the way back and I think that would be plenty of time. Do I need to account for extra time for my layover going? Is 1 hour and 40 minutes enough time?

That IAD to BER route is a new route for United; they just recently announced it. Assuming that your inbound flight arrived on time, 1:40 should be enough time. If you miss it, there are multiple late night flights to other European airports, so odds are they could get you on a later flight connecting in a European city.

I’m more concerned about your return trip. I’m assuming your flight from Vienna is actually on Austrian. Austrian uses a different terminal at IAD than United. On arrival, you’d get on a mobile lounge which would take you to the immigration area in the main terminal. After immigration, you go back through TSA and then have to travel from main terminal to United terminal on the Aerotrain. Dulles is my home airport so I have never transferred there, but I have heard it can be ugly. Note that there are two immigration areas at Dulles. If your inbound flight was on United metal and you were connecting, you’d go through immigration in the United terminal rather than the main terminal.

Posted by
17 posts

@Laura --- thank you. Yes, going is on United but the flight from Vienna is on Austrian Airlines. The layover going to Berlin at Dulles is 1 hour and 25 minutes and returning from Vienna is 2 hours 35 minutes. So do you think it would be enough time on the return? I might have to scout out another route. There is one that goes through Chicago with the same layover time but not sure if it is easier through O'hare. Thanks for your help.

Posted by
4555 posts

I suspect that you could make the connection at Dulles (or United wouldn’t offer it), but Dulles still uses these mobile lounges to transport passengers to the international arrivals area and this makes it more of a hassle. I’m speculating, but connecting in Chicago on the way home may be a better option. Again, I’ve never connected at Dulles, but I’ve seen lots of complaints. Perhaps someone who has connected in Chicago can answer.

Posted by
1 posts

Rick: Any current information about problems at BER? Last I heard, there were long lines and long delays; BER authorities where suggesting arriving 4 hours early for departing flights; with the further suggestion that luggage be dropped off the day before.
Given BER problems, would you still recommend flying in and out of Berlin rather than traveling by train from another airport?
Thanks
Roger

Posted by
19160 posts

I don't know how common it was prior to the pandemic, but in the last year or so there have been lots of reports here about changes in flight schedules that severely expanded or shrank connection times. By all means try to find a rational routing, but don't assume that your flight schedule will stay the same as it was the day you bought the ticket.

As a retiree, I am not time-limited, which I realize is not typical. If I were in this situation I would find myself some interesting things to do around Frankfurt (or Munich), plan to spend at least one night in my landing city, and buy a bargain-priced advance ticket for a train to Berlin on a future date. I wonder whether you'd have better luck with a frequent-flyer ticket if the trip ended at one of the two big gateway airports rather than Berlin.

Posted by
2632 posts

Roger--

I'm not Rick, but I flew out of BER the morning of 10/26. I had a 6:45 am Lufthansa flight to Frankfurt and arrived at the airport around 4:50 am. I was through security and at the gate, munching on a sandwich prepared by my B&B owner, by 5:20 am. I just had a carry on and had a boarding pass on my phone. The queue at the Lufthansa ticket counter/baggage check assigned for my flight was pretty insane. That would have tacked on a bunch of time. I understand immigration is pretty slow at the airport, too. I was a little surprised at how many people were at the airport at 5 am; most airport -- even big airports -- are still pretty quiet at that hour.

The 4-hour recommendation apparently came from Lufthansa in e-mails to customers after a rough start to the October school holiday season at the Berlin airport. The airport blamed an excessive number of employees calling in sick.

I don't think I would allow current issues to keep me from flying into or out of BER, but I would arrive a little extra early for flights!

Posted by
4763 posts

I flew out of BER a few days before Dave, about an hour later in the day, and with a bag to check. I didn't have any problem with check-in or security. The only problem I had with arrival ten days earlier was finding the S-Bahn into the city. That delayed me maybe 20 minutes, but it was worth it to have a low-cost direct rail connection to a block from my hotel. BER is a very big airport and I'm sure they had trouble when it first opened last fall, but it worked OK for me last month.