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Cheap Avios deals on airberlin may be over as the end beckons …..

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Ever since it joined the oneworld alliance, airberlin has offered some exceptional bargains for Avios collectors.

As I wrote in this article, you have been able to fly to the USA and Abu Dhabi paying only minimal taxes.  Since that article was published, airberlin has added a raft of new US routes on top.

A one way airberlin Avios redemption in business class from the US to Germany costs just £4 in taxes and charges.  A return is a bit more because of German airport taxes but you will pay under £100 return.  Berlin and Dusseldorf are also easy to reach from many UK regional airports.

The service isn’t shoddy either – here is Anika’s review of her recent New York to Berlin Avios redemption in business class.  Etihad, the 49% shareholder in airberlin, oversaw an upgrading of its business class with new fully flat seats.  The food is very Germanic but apart from that ….

Is the end nigh for airberlin?

Back in September, I wrote about how Lufthansa is taking over a third of the airberlin route network.

From 31st March 2017, all airberlin and NIKI flights which do not feed into the hubs of Berlin or Dusseldorf will be transferred to Eurowings.  This includes flights out of Vienna, Stuttgart and Palma, where airberlin is the biggest airline.

The deal is a ‘wet lease’.  The planes and crew remain with airberlin but Eurowings will pay a fixed fee to lease them.  Eurowings will keep all of the revenue from the services and therefore takes all of the economic risk.

40 planes are involved, of which 35 will be branded as Eurowings with the other five passing to Austrian.  airberlin is also having discussions with TUI about the remaining NIKI operation based in Austria. This is, in theory, a six year deal although it is difficult to imagine the operation of the routes ever passing back to airberlin.

I saved a four figure sum using Avios to fly from Palma to Innsbruck on airberlin / NIKI last summer.  Taking the same trip this year will be very expensive.

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.

It is now beginning to look as if this is only part of the story, however …..

Lufthansa may be acquiring the rest of airberlin

airberlin has been losing money for a number of years, despite major capital injections from 29% shareholder Etihad.  There are even rumours that Etihad CEO, James Hogan, may lose his job after losing $2.6bn on investments in airberlin, Air Serbia and Alitalia.

airberlin has a decent long-haul network  but short-haul has been hit by competition from Ryanair, easyJet, Wizz etc.  I thought that retrenching to a hub and spoke network, with its remaining short haul flights providing feed to the long haul flights out of Berlin and Dusseldorf, would keep airberlin afloat.  It now seems not.

Reports in the German media have said that the German Government would be supportive of Lufthansa taking over the rest of airberlin – ie the long haul routes and the feeder flights.  airberlin has just fired its CEO and the replacement is reportedly being appointed with a ‘to do’ list consisting of just one item.  They are not concerned about competition issues – the German Government has spent years trying block the ‘Middle East 3’ from getting established at Frankfurt and Dusseldorf in order to protect Lufthansa.

For Lufthansa this would be a smart move.  Once Berlin Brandenburg airport finally opens, it will have a brand new facility with enough space to ramp up operations.  Lufthansa was at serious risk here, having put all of its long-haul eggs in the Frankfurt and Munich baskets with no long haul presence from the national capital.

At a stroke, taking over airberlin will give it dominance of the long haul market from Germany and pole position at the new airport.  It won’t complain at gaining a major presence at Dusseldorf either.

For Avios collectors, this would be a blow.  You can say goodbye to those low tax redemptions out of Germany.  With Aer Lingus also increasing its taxes and charges sharply following the launch of AerClub, 2017 may not be a good time to Avios rich but cash poor.

It isn’t clear what will happen to existing Avios redemptions on airberlin 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.


British Airways BA Amex American Express

How to earn Avios from UK credit cards (September 2021)

As a reminder, there are various ways of earning Avios from UK credit cards.  Many cards also have generous sign-up bonuses!

There are two official British Airways American Express cards. Both have increased sign-up bonuses until 2nd November 2021:

British Airways BA Amex American Express card

British Airways American Express

10,000 Avios for signing up, no annual fee and an Economy 241 voucher for spending ….. Read our full review

British Airways BA Premium Plus American Express Amex credit card

British Airways American Express Premium Plus

40,000 Avios and the UK’s most valuable credit card perk – the 2-4-1 companion voucher Read our full review

You can also get generous sign-up bonuses by applying for American Express cards which earn Membership Rewards points, such as:

Nectar American Express

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold

Your best beginner’s card – 30,000 points, FREE for a year & two airport lounge passes Read our full review

American Express Platinum card Amex

The Platinum Card from American Express

60,000 points and an unbeatable set of travel benefits – for a fee Read our full review

The 30,000 points bonus on Amex Gold runs to 9th November 2021. The 60,000 points bonus on The Platinum Card runs to 2nd November 2021.

Run your own business?

We recommend Capital On Tap for limited companies. You earn 1 Avios per £1 which is impressive for a Visa card:

Capital On Tap Business Rewards Visa

The most generous Avios Visa or Mastercard for a limited company Read our full review

You should also consider the British Airways Accelerating Business credit card. This is open to sole traders as well as limited companies. This card has a limited time offer of 60,000 Avios when you sign up:

British Airways Accelerating Business American Express card

British Airways Accelerating Business American Express

60,000 Avios sign-up bonus – plus annual bonuses of up to 30,000 Avios Read our full review

Click here to read our detailed summary of all UK credit cards which earn Avios. This includes both personal and small business cards.

(Want to earn more Avios?  Click here to visit our home page for our latest articles on earning and spending your Avios points and click here to see how to earn more Avios this month from offers and promotions.)

Comments (71)

  • Ian says:

    I’m also concerned that the end could be near for Aer Lingus low-tax Avios redemptions as they join oneworld and presumably the TransAtlantic Joint Venture.

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