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.
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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