Fewer Avios options: Lufthansa to take over 1/3rd of airberlin routes

Whilst nothing is signed yet, the noises coming out of Germany suggest that Lufthansa is on the verge of taking over a third of the airberlin route network.

This will not be a long and drawn out affair.  Lufthansa would acquire the aircraft leases and the airberlin crew who fly them, and the switch would take place in late October.  The routes would be added to the existing Eurowings network.

The plan is that all airberlin and NIKI flights which do not feed into the hubs of Berlin or Dusseldorf will be transferred.  This includes flights out of Vienna, Stuttgart and Palma, where airberlin is the biggest airline.

airberlin has been losing money for a number of years, despite major capital injections from 29% shareholder Etihad.  airberlin has a decent long-haul network (here is Anika’s review of her recent New York to Berlin Avios redemption in business class) but short-haul has been hit by competition from Ryanair, easyJet, Wizz etc.

airberlin lufthansa sale

For airberlin, the deal makes sense.  It will have no impact on their long-haul operation.  It is no different to what British Airways did a few years ago when it span off its regional operations into BA Connect which was merged into Flybe.

The bigger question is why Lufthansa wants to buy the routes.  The view in Germany is that it is a defensive play.  If airberlin closes the routes, either voluntarily or because it goes bust, they would be picked up by low cost competitors who would gain a stronger foothold in Germany.  Eurowings may not be desperately keen to add these routes but it is even less keen to see its low cost competitors strengthened.

For Avios collectors, this would be a blow.  I doubt there are many HFP readers who fly airberlin short-haul on a regular basis.  They can provide a lifeline when jetting around Europe, especially as Avios seats are generally easy to find.

You will remember my article on how I saved £1,000 when I redeemed for Palma to Innsbruck on airberlin over the Summer.  Anika flew them from Split to Vienna yesterday – and back to London on BA – when direct flights from Split to the UK were at ludicrous £400+ prices.  These are both routes which will no longer be available for redemption if this deal goes through.

It isn’t clear what will happen to existing Avios redemptions in this scenario.  You might think existing bookings would be protected, but there are many examples in the hotel sector where a property rebrands from one chain to another and all existing redemption bookings are cancelled.  We would need to wait and see.

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  1. Would this reshuffle likely include the loss of Abu Dhabi direct services to/from STR and VIE over to Eurowings?

  2. Given that Eurowings is not *A and only Miles&Less this also a bit of shame for points travellers (redeeming or collecting) generally.
    While it might result in me earning a few more M&M miles on occasion, it would not be a meaningful difference. And I really struggle personally to get any value out of that scheme.

    If they made Eurowings *A, I’d find this a lot more positive…

  3. Etihad do not own 49% – they own c.29%. This is as non-Eu ownership is restricted to 49.9% and there is a Turkish shareholder with a lot of the rest. http://ir.airberlin.com/en/ir/airberlin-share/shareholder-structure/shareholder-structure-by-nationality

  4. I wonder what will happen to NIKI, based in Vienna. I am one of those that uses airberlin’s intra European routes a lot but I’m trying to offload a shedload of almost useless airberlin miles before I go back to using Avios. For those with airberlin miles like me, there’s a mileage bargain offer starting today about 14h.

  5. Well I won’t be sorry to see them go, after they completely screwed me on a recent trip and delayed me for over 24 hours, the customer service was just awful and I can see why they are loosing money.

    Now I have the uphill battle of trying to claim my 600 EUR from them for their mistake.
    After the experience I won’t ever fly them again.

  6. Yes I’ve heard about many problems when things go wrong and you seem to be pretty much left alone, Ryanair style. I was once at the ticket desk in DUS airport and a stranded flyer came up, furious and swearing in German about what had happened to him. Sounded pretty awful, to be honest.

  7. Thats a shame, I have the awards for Etihad J flight to Australia next month & 4-5 Virgin OZ internal flights heading to my new-ish topsbonus milage account.
    Does anyone have any other suggestions as in where to direct these pending awards.

  8. Hopefully someone can help with this…

    I’ve got about 30k Miles & More points and looking to use them for a Swiss flight to GVA (I have to go there several time per year but usually just fly CE using RFS). However, I can see that it is 45,000 miles (business) for the flight but does not show how much the taxes are. I’ve tried to do a ‘dummy’ booking but it tells me that I haven’t got enough miles.

    Does anyone know how to find out how much the taxes will/would be for this route?

  9. Long live Air Berlin, i used 4500 avios and £22.50 to fly Berlin to Stockholm instead of paying £343 in cash.

  10. Lady London says:

    As regards existing bookings, I had existing bookings on LH shorthaul flights within Europe when LH decided to move all of their own shorthaul flights to Germanwings. This was except for LH flights to MUC or FRA. My longhaul itinerary of which these flights were part, was totally messed about due to flight timing changes and deletions due to this decision by Lufthansa.

    The whole itinerary was ticketed on Lufthansa, BMI (whose miles I had used to make the booking) was no more. Lufthansa did not want to know and would take no responsibility for the mess in my itinerary caused by them moving flights around. It was a nightmare and I ended up with stops missed out that I had planned in, substandard flights I did not want and my timing messed up for the connecting long haul.

    So I wouldn’t be too optimistic if I had any short haul Air Berlin flights booked right now especially if they do not touch DUS or BER.

    FWIW I think Miles & Less is only worth it if you are at least a Senator.

  11. will merrett says:

    I love AB, will be sad to see any routes go. Flown to Palma, Naples and Warsaw with them and enjoyed every flight. The chocolate hearts as you leave the plane are a great tough. I also love that thing on the Dash 8’s where you have to give them your hand luggage as you get on the plane and then you get given it back on tarmac as you get off the plane.

  12. Will this effect the redemption of Miles under the Lufthansa 70th anniversary celebration (not sure that 1946 should be celebrated mind)?

    I have either 3 or 4 lots of 3500 miles so far by minimal switching, and 50k looks possible in the next 3 weeks without much pain.

  13. And with that, the Star Alliance takeover of VIE will be complete. They will basically have a monopoly on most of the intra-Europe routes. Nowadays, they charge whatever they please out of Vienna, so when they’ll have no competition, the prices will go even further up.

  14. A little bell rang in my head just now, as I’m hoping to book a trip for my wife’s 50th next May, tomorrow, and I thought I’d seen a recent article about Air Berlin.

    Looking at MAN-DUB (paid for) for an over-nighter in Dublin, then DUB-BOS (Avios redemption with Aer Lingus) for a few nights in Boston

    Was looking at BOS-DUS with Air Berlin for the return (then DUS-MAN with FlyBe). Given the latest, am I best doing a straight BOS-DUB?


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