Air Travel

AIRLINES | AIR TRAVEL | AIRPORTS

Increased airline competition in Germany and the rest of Europe has made travel by air a more popular option for travel to, from, or within Europe. In some cases traveling by air can even be cheaper than going by rail in Europe. Lufthansa, for instance, has been offering special 99-euro round-trip fares between many cities in Germany and Europe (with conditions, of course). Even when the fare is higher, the time savings offered by the air option may pay off in the long run.

FRA planes

Frankfurt is Germany’s busiest airport with over 1,360 domestic and international flights every day. PHOTO © Hyde Flippo

Low-fare carriers
Increasingly, it is possible to fly to and from, or within Germany on low-fare airlines (Billigflieger) like easyJet, Ryanair, and others. Major airlines such as American, Delta and United (with partner Lufthansa) also fly to Frankfurt and other German and other European cities. The former German charter airlines, Condor and LTU (now Air Berlin), now offer low-cost scheduled flights to Germany from the US and Canada. Condor (now part of Thomas Cook Airlines) flies out of Anchorage, Calgary, Halifax, Ft. Lauderdale, Las Vegas, Seattle, Vancouver, and other cities — with the advantage of reasonable one-way fares if you need that. Some of these North American destinations are seasonal.

MORE > How to Find Cheap Transatlantic Flights (Advice from the GW Expat Blog)

Ice window

Above the North Atlantic on the way to Frankfurt.
PHOTO © Hyde Flippo

German Airports
Most international passengers flying to or from Germany travel via Frankfurt am Main (FRA), one of Europe’s biggest airports, but Munich (MUC) and Düsseldorf (DUS) are also popular German international hubs (Drehscheiben). As a frequent traveler to Berlin, I am looking forward to the opening of Berlin’s new Willy Brandt International Airport (BER), still under construction next to the former East German Schönefeld Airport. Unfortunately, the date for BER’s grand opening has been changed at least twice since it failed to open on June 3, 2011 as originally scheduled. (We’re still waiting in 2016! The good news: The empty airport has become a popular filming location.)

Also see: Hotels and B&Bs for airport hotels in Germany.

Berlin (TXL, SXF and BER)
Because of its history (divided Germany and all that), Berlin has lagged far behind other European capital cities in air service. With the scheduled opening of the new Berlin Brandenburg International Airport (Flughafen Willy-Brandt, BER) in June 2011, everyone hoped that Berlin could begin to catch up with London and Paris in air travel. Berlin’s main Tegel Airport (TXL) is bursting at the seams, but non-stop flights between Berlin and North America are still rare (and mostly to the east coast). The historic Tempelhof Airport in the middle of the city closed in 2008. Schönefeld (SXF), the former East Berlin airport, now offers mostly holiday and low-fare flights (easyJet, etc.).

Schönefeld and Tegel were scheduled to close on June 3, 2011, when BER was supposed to open, but with the delays those two airports are still operating. Whenever Berlin’s new airport opens, Lufthansa, airberlin and other airlines want to greatly expand their European and international flights to and from Berlin. You can already fly between North America and Berlin on Air Berlin (Chicago, New York/JFK, Miami, Los Angeles) and United Airlines (Newark). Once in operation, BER is projected to become Germany’s third busiest airport, after Frankfurt and Munich.

Flights to Austria
There are also direct flights from North America to Austria’s capital city of Vienna. Vienna International Airport (VIE) in Schwechat is only 16 minutes from Vienna via the City Airport Train (CAT) which travels nonstop between central Vienna and the airport. The fare is €12.00 ($15.60) each way. Another option is the S-Bahn (urban rail) train, which only costs €4.20 ($5.50) but takes longer (about 25 minutes). The S-Bahn is a good option if you’re not in a hurry and you want to reach other destinations in Vienna. Of course there are also bus, taxi and limousine options. All the usual rental car agencies are also found in the airport’s rental car center. See the Vienna airport website for details.

Austrian Airlines has direct flights between Vienna and these North American cities: Chicago (O’Hare), New York (JFK), Toronto (Pearson) and Washington, DC (Dulles). There are also many connecting flights to Vienna from Amsterdam, Frankfurt, London, Paris, Munich and other European airports. Austrian Airlines and Swiss International Airlines fly between Zurich and Vienna.

Some of the airlines with service to Vienna: Austrian Airlines, Air Berlin, Niki, Lufthansa/Germanwings, Swiss.

Zurich Kloten airport

A view of Zurich Airport (Kloten) in April 2010.
PHOTO: Hansueli Krapf, Wikimedia Commons

Flights to Switzerland
Zurich Airport (ZRH) in nearby Kloten is served by the following airlines from North America: Air Canada (Toronto), American Airlines (New York/JFK), Delta (Atlanta), Swiss (Chicago, O’Hare; New York, JFK) and United (Newark, Washington-Dulles). There are also many connecting flights from Amsterdam, Frankfurt, London, Paris and other European cities.

The Zurich airport has a rail station with regional, long-distance trains, plus the S-Bahn local train. S-Bahn lines S2 and S16 run between the airport and the center of Zurich in only 10-15 minutes. There is also a bus station.

Jet Lag
You can’t avoid it on long flights, but there are some ways to alleviate the effects of jet lag. See our Jet Lag page for the details.

Also see our Berlin City Guide and other City Guides for Germany.

Next | Jet Lag

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