I have had a soft spot for airberlin since they joined oneworld three years ago, and I have probably done more than anyone else in the UK to promote them. This is ironic as the airline does not even fly to the UK!
The reasons you should care about airberlin are:
You can use Avios to fly them long-haul to the US, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Mexico and Middle East
You do not pay any fuel surcharges so there is very little cash to pay when you book an Avios seat. A one-way redemption from the US to Germany has just £3 of taxes and charges added.
They offer a fully flat bed product in business class.
There are some downsides, of course:
You need to get to Berlin or Dusseldorf to start your trip
The food is not great (I remember getting brussel sprout salad once)
They only release two business class seats per flight
You cannot use a British Airways American Express 2-4-1 voucher on airberlin (or any other partner airline)
All airberlin redemptions are priced at ‘peak’ pricing, irrespective of whether British Airways flights are ‘peak’ or ‘off-peak’ on that day
Here are the new routes announced this week:
Dusseldorf to Dallas (four flights per week from 6th May)
Dusseldorf to San Francisco (three flights per week from 6th May, increasing to five flights from June)
Dusseldorf to Boston (three flights per week from 7th May, increasing to four flights from June)
Dusseldorf to Havana (two flights per week from 28th May)
All four destinations are new to the airberlin route network.
Avios redemptions are already loaded to ba.com. Here is sample pricing to San Francisco:
Economy – 60,000 Avios + £61 return
Business – 180,000 Avios + £61 return
Compare that to £537 of taxes and charges for a British Airways Club World redemption and £344 for a World Traveller redemption. The maths is not that simple, of course, because you need to factor in the cost of getting to Germany. If you are travelling on an off-peak date, you also need to factor in the additional Avios required to fly airberlin over BA.
Overall, this is an excellent new use of your Avios points. It will be especially welcomed by those who are Avios rich but cash poor as, even after factoring in getting to Germany, a couple should be saving £400 in taxes and charges in Economy and £800 in Business compared with flying BA.
airberlin availability is currently excellent on these new routes. Unless your are BA Gold, there are no BA World Traveller seats to San Francisco available in July 2015 for example – but airberlin has space on almost every flight.
Similarly, there are no Club World seats outbound between 20th June and 19th September whereas the airberlin cup runneth over – at least for the next week or so until they are snapped up.