Maximise your Avios, air miles and hotel points

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.


How to earn Avios points from UK credit cards

How to earn Avios from UK credit cards (October 2022)

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

In February 2022, Barclaycard launched two exciting new Barclaycard Avios Mastercard cards with a bonus of up to 25,000 Avios. You can apply here.

You qualify for the bonus on these cards even if you have a British Airways American Express card:

Barclaycard Avios Plus card

Barclaycard Avios Plus Mastercard

25,000 Avios for signing up and an upgrade voucher for spending £10,000 Read our full review

Barclaycard Avios card

Barclaycard Avios Mastercard

5,000 Avios for signing up and an upgrade voucher for spending £20,000 Read our full review

There are two official British Airways American Express cards with attractive sign-up bonuses:

British Airways American Express Premium Plus

25,000 Avios and the UK’s most valuable card perk – the 2-4-1 voucher Read our full review

British Airways American Express

5,000 Avios for signing up and an Economy 2-4-1 voucher for spending £12,000 Read our full review

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

EDIT: Until 25th October 2022, there is an exceptionally generous sign-up bonus on The Platinum Card. You will receive 60,000 Membership Rewards points – double the usual amount – and £200 to spend at Amex Travel. You need to spend £6,000 within six months to earn the bonus.

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold

Your best beginner’s card – 20,000 points, FREE for a year & two airport lounge passes Read our full review

The Platinum Card from American Express

60,000 points (SPECIAL OFFER), £200 travel credit and unbeatable benefits – for a fee Read our full review

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, along with a sign-up bonus worth 10,000 Avios.

Capital On Tap Business Rewards Visa

10,500 points bonus – the most generous Avios Visa 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 and has a 30,000 Avios sign-up bonus.

British Airways Accelerating Business American Express

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

There are also generous bonuses on the two American Express Business cards, with the points converting at 1:1 into Avios. These cards are open to sole traders as well as limited companies.

American Express Business Platinum

40,000 points sign-up bonus and a long list of travel benefits Read our full review

American Express Business Gold

20,000 points sign-up bonus and free for a year 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.

Comments (71)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

  • Ralf Berge says:

    For competition (and customers) it would be much better if any other company than Lufthansa would take over airberlin

    • tim says:

      Right. But the german government only partially believes in competition.

      • Rob says:

        Lufty was so not bothered by competition that it ordered A380’s and kept their 1990’s ‘slopes to the floor’ business class ‘wedgie’ seat on it …..

        They have now finally gone.

  • xcalx says:

    Any idea how quick his could happen. I have a number of AB accounts with 10,000 miles thanks to the generous refer a friend promo last year. Was hoping that AB would launch a household account facility to merge the accounts. Looks like I will have to explore inter Europe awards.

    If the takeover goes ahead I assume the AB miles will end up as Miles and More. Does LH have household accounts.

    • Rob says:

      No

    • shd says:

      I had a look and came to the conclusion that all AB s/h Y redemptions are pants. The taxes/fees/charges will cost you almost as much as a cash ticket.

      Redeeming AB miles on EY J (or AB J) seemed reasonable-to-good value when I did it a couple of years ago.

      • Rob says:

        You have clearly never been faced with £400 for Palma to Innsbruck on an August Saturday!

        • Margaret says:

          I was faced with a dusseldorf to palma flight with a 2 hour 55 minute delay last summer, which had knock on delays for landing, baggage collection and transfer to resort. A departure timetabled for just after 4pm finally got us to resort at 12.20am. The plane itself smelt of fuel and was noisy. We’d flown there from City on a small propellor plane which was less stressful! Never again.

        • Alex W says:

          Stop banging on about Palma to Innsbruck!

          • Ramones says:

            I love hearing about this exciting route. Don’t be so selfish.

      • xcalx says:

        BA flights can be booked using AB miles taxes and fees seem reasonable eg LGW-TFS 10,000 plus 30 Euro and TFS-LGW 10,000 plus 11 Euros

  • the real harry says:

    49% or 29%? – that is the question 🙂

  • Barry cutters says:

    Was in the first lounge last night for. 5.45 flight . At 5.41 we were still looking at the screen and it just said ‘gate open’ , it didn’t say boarding , it didn’t say closing . So I went to the desk and the woman apologised profusely and said oh they are just waiting for 2 people to board (us) suddenly the screens changed and we both got a notification on our phones that the gate was open. We ran down to gate 15 and the woman was vile to us , saying we had held up a plane of 150 people . We were ‘lucky’ they hadn’t thrown us off . Was thinking of complaining to Ba – we literally did nearly miss our flight . Which would have caused us big problems , also I’m pretty angry about the way the lady on the gate spoke to my missus . I don’t know if it makes a difference but it was a cash fare in club to Amsterdam .

    • edd says:

      We had similar yesterday in that there was signage for Gate Open and then nothing until Last Call – boarding was not ever announced on the screens. BA would argue there are big signs at the entrance saying get to the gate 20min before departure latest so I’d be tempted to let it go, at least you got the flight!

    • Tina says:

      If i am waitung for a flight and no boarding announcement/gate number appears, i always check with the desk.

      I certainly wouldn’t be quietly waiting for it 4 minutes before take off !

      • Alex W says:

        +1! Relying on the screen is a very risky strategy! I like to be nice and early, board the plane ASAP so I can get my hand luggage stowed etc, start watching a movie or go to sleep.

        • Nick says:

          You can’t watch a movie or even get time to sleep on the LHR-AMS flight.

      • Barry cutters says:

        There was a gate number displayed, it just didn’t say boarding or closing . I fly from Heathrow at least once a week. This never happens normally. I only leave the first lounge for an A gate flight once it says final boarding or last call, and for B/C gate flight I only leave once the green boarding sign appears. I have never missed a flight out of Heathrow doing this and in 2016 I took 60something Ba flights out of Heathrow . They specifically put later announcements in the First lounge than in the general departures area as they know ,most, people in there can get to a flight on time . – if the information is given to them correctly that is.

        • Barry cutters says:

          In fact it was the wrong gate number displayed also . Gate number on photo was not the same as when updated and the gate we actually left from

    • John says:

      There was an FT thread recently where someone complained about this. They missed the final segment of their ex-EU flight (plus connecting flight from continent to home) and BA charged them something to change the missed segment to a domestic, IIRC.

  • Andrew H says:

    How do we know AB points will shift over to Lufthansa? They might just wipe them out.

  • Jack says:

    Sorry to drop in an OT post but has anyone had success in getting AmEx to add the £50 AmEx Travel offer to their card (BA specifically) – my secure message remains unanswered and the agent on the phone yesterday had never heard of offers being added manually and told me it wasn’t possible, but I’m sure I’ve read comments about it on here. Thanks all.

    • Barry cutters says:

      You are probably right . I did make the missus take a picture of the gate screen before it changed – clearly showing only ‘gate open’ and we both screenshot the display on our phones showing the gate message was only recieved 4 mins before the departure time. I’m more annoyed about the way the woman spoke to us , and actually delayed us getting on the flight by moaning , rather than prioritising getting us on the plane . It was funny though to be talking to the woman manning the first desk who was muttering complaints of how downhill Ba has got recently . Moaning mainly about BOB

    • Brighton Belle says:

      It appeared on my Gold and not on my BA card. I guess it was not intended for the BA card. I was going to churn the Gold but the recent offers are too good to sit out for 6 months.

    • Wayne Phillips says:

      They added it to my card and wife’s supplementary via secure message with quick response times incl. on New Years day. First attempt they didn’t know he offer and requested I send in the exact text which someone on here provided. To pay it forward in case you need it… Once I sent this is the applied it straight away to both

      AMERICAN EXPRESS TRAVEL
      Spend £200 or more, get £50 back
      Save to Card to get a £50 statement credit on eligible spend of £200+ online with American Express Travel by 28/02/2017. Valid once per Card for the first 24,000 Cardmembers to save. Terms and payment restrictions apply.

  • John Barnes says:

    I’m wondering what will happen to Topbonus. I rarely fly with Air Berlin, but the One World sapphire I have with them comes in handy with flights on other airlines (such as BA). That changing is a bigger concern for me -much more so than Avios redemptions on Air Berlin disappearing.

  • Concerto says:

    All European routes of sister company to airberlin, which is NIKI, will be closed at the end of January. I will be on what is the last NIKI flight in March, VIE to AUH. When Rob flew to Innsbruck it will have been with NIKI.

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

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