German carrier airberlin has announced the expansion of its Dusseldorf hub, starting flights to Chicago next summer, as well as to Toronto — its only Canadian destination. The nine weekly flights operated between the two routes will bring airberlin’s long haul schedule up to around 100 weekly flights for next summer, its largest ever.

Flights between Dusseldorf and Toronto will operate four times a week starting May 1st, and flights between Dusseldorf and Chicago will operate five times a week starting May 2nd. The destinations will join Air Berlin’s current roster of long-haul destinations from Dusseldorf, which consists of Boston, Fort Myers, Los Angeles, Miami, Orlando and San Francisco. Also in summer 2018, airberlin will operate to Cancun (Mexico), Varadero (Cuba) and Punta Cana (Dominican Republic). All of airberlin’s long-haul flights are operated by the airline’s fleet of Airbus A330-200 aircraft, which are configured with airberlin’s long-haul business class product, premium economy (XL Seats) and economy.

“We are writing the first chapter in the new airberlin’s success story. We now have three additional long-haul aircraft in our fleet. We are already the largest provider of US flights in North Rhine-Westphalia [the region encompassing Dusseldorf] and Berlin,” airberlin CCO Götz Ahmelmann said in a statement. “And we will continue to expand. Supplementing the US programme with additional flights to Canada is the next step on the road to success.”

Air Berlin’s long-haul business class product as equipped on its Airbus A330-200s. Photo Credits: airberlin

Dusseldorf does not currently have direct flights to Canada, and the flight to Toronto will be airberlin’s first flight to Canada since canceling its service to Vancouver in 2013. The flight to Chicago will supplement airberlin’s daily flight from Berlin to Chicago and is the only current non-stop service between Dusseldorf and Chicago. Lufthansa canceled the route after the summer 2015 season when it shut down its Dusseldorf long-haul hub, and American Airlines did not resume its summer seasonal service this year, which it had started in 2013.

The carrier’s plans come amid its restructuring process, in which the airline is cutting its fleet to 75 aircraft and repositioning itself as a network carrier instead of a holiday airline. 38 of airberlin’s planes are being leased out to Lufthansa’s low-cost subsidiary Eurowings, which is expanding in airberlin’s traditional hubs at Berlin-Tegel and Dusseldorf. In addition, American Airlines, a oneworld partner of airberlin, cut its codeshare agreement with the airline earlier this year, reducing the number of connections on the American side of the routes available to its customers.

airberlin has also faced operational challenges in Berlin, where the airline is affected by the prolonged opening of Berlin Brandenburg Airport, which was originally supposed to open in 2010, but has been pushed back to 2019. However, the airline’s turn to Dusseldorf has begun to pay off, with the airline carrying over 7.5 million passengers last year to the airport, or about one out of every three passengers flying through Dusseldorf.

Featured image by airberlin.

Categories: Industry Talk