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

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 on the verge of 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 lufthansa sale

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.

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

January Sale Bits: BA Holidays extra £100 off, Opodo extra £20 off, Monarch flights £29 or less
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  1. Ralf Berge says:

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

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

      • 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.

  2. 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.

    • No

    • 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.

      • 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.

        • Stop banging on about Palma to Innsbruck!

        • Ramones says:

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

      • 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

  3. the real harry says:

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

  4. 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 .

    • 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!

    • 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 !

      • +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.

      • 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

    • 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.

  5. Andrew H says:

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

  6. 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

      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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. Sorry for the OT (no bits today)

    I received an email from Ryanair to complete a survey because we had a flight delay. One question asked had we been informed of our right to EU 261 compensation.

    The day of the flight, the incoming flight from AGP landed 1hour 40 mins late, by the time we started boarding we were now at 2 hours delayed. The weather had been overcast until now then the heavens opened and an inch of snow fell in the next 15 mins, this caused a further delay of 1 hour 5 mins whilst the runway was cleared.

    The captain came on the speaker every 15 mins apologising for the delay and informing us that unfortunately Michael O’leary had no control over the weather -Yet.

    Is there a way to check the official cause of the delay. Had the flight left on time we would have been 33,000 feet above the Pyrenees when the snow arrived at LBA

  10. Just another nail in the coffin for the points game. Compared to when I started two years ago its just getting so hard to get points and a good redemption deal thinking of calling it a day

  11. “Once Berlin Brandenburg airport finally opens”

    Surely you mean “If Berlin Brandenburg airport finally opens”

  12. I’ve got a BOS-DUS Avoid redemption booked for May as part of a trip for my wife’s 50th birthday.

    How worried do I need to be?

    (Have paid cash with Eurowings for the final DUS-MAN leg)

    • A bit of a Freudian slip from my phone’s autocorrect…

      That should be Avios not Avoid….

    • Fine for May, this will drag on for ages

      • Brian W says:

        I hope ‘ages’ = past June and July also as I have long haul return redemtions for 5 out of TXL booked with cash flights paid for to position there.

        Although this makes me a bit nervous I too would hope that a complete takeover would likely take a lot more than 6-7 months to complete especially when they have the short haul integration to deal with over the next few months.

        Fingers crossed. Shame its coming to an end though.

  13. PS Rob – getting video ads suddenly blaring out on this page, anything you can do about these?

    • What is the company? Can block it if Google is serving it.

      • Damn sorry, forgot to take a note of it – will let you know if it happens again!

        • Brian Peers says:

          If you use chrome i’d recommend looking at the beta chrome flags.
          There is one which lets you mute tabs by clicking on the speaker at the top

        • Thanks, good tip. You can always right click and mute too, but don’t want to have to do it every time so will just try and keep a note and let Rob know 🙂

  14. Mark1980 says:

    Can you select seats on Air Berlin Avios redemptions?

  15. bradbobley says:

    any chance that LH taking over AB could mean a sneaky way of getting higher LH status through the backdoor? by doing status match now.

  16. What a shame. I flew to Abu Dhabi in AB Business Class and loved the service, both on board and on the ground. One of my favourite Avios redemptions.

    • Agree, the on board service on that route is excellent far better than the MIA-TXL and DUS-CUN Business flights I have also flown with AB( not that they were bad). I remember thinking at the time that more money must be allocated for the in flight food and drink on the TXL-AUH route to please Etihad.

  17. Lady London says:

    I had a multi-segment rewards booking made with BMI when Lufthansa owned them.

    The ticket had been issed. The first segment was a Lufthansa operated flight on a Lufthansa flight code. Meaning the entire ticket was the responsibility of Lufthansa.

    Lufthansa sold BMI to IAG (BA’s parent).

    Shortly after that with the rewards booking still unflown, Lufthansa divested itself of the first flight on my multi-flight ticket, as they put all their flights that didn’t go through Munich or Frankfurt to Germanwings.

    The first flight on my ticket got eliminated. This messed up the timings for following flights on the ticket. As each flight was ticketed in a rewards fare class the chance of reward class seats still being available on any replacement flight segment for all the flights affected – longhaul flights around the world – was practically zero. This all happened more than two weeks before the first flight btw.

    Lufthansa didn’t want to know. The ticket was their responsibility, and they owned BMI when it was bought. The result was that I lost 3 flight segments in Europe at the beginning of the ticket and got no replacement and I ended up positioning myself to take the first longhaul segment in order to keep all the rest of the ticket. Lufthansa had a moral obligation to help if they were decent at all. The problem was entirely of their making, and they were also the responsible airline for all the flights on the ticket under the rules. They simply refused to provide substitute flights and preserve the routing so I lost quite a lot of things I had planned to do on the 3 stops lost.

    Long story but I haven’t foot on a Lufthansa flight since. Any Lufthansa segment offered by my various companies’ business travel agencies I told them I did not want to be booked on any Lufthansa flights and told them why. So I wouldn’t trust Lufthansa to honour anything at all you arrange with Air Berlin. Not even if it’s their responsibility. supposed to.

  18. “The airline is now planning to roll back its European investments, which include a 29 per cent stake in Air Berlin bought in 2011, a 49 per cent stake in Air Serbia acquired in 2013 and a 49 per cent stake in Alitalia acquired this year, according to the publication.”

    Who would take Alitalia off their hands?

    • They had some good ideas for Alitalia but Ryanair etc are decimating its short haul business which may be beyond repair. It is hard to imagine that you can’t run a decent long haul airline with a country of 60 million.

  19. The piece about James Hogan being fired is the only positive! He has been on a drunken spending spree that has finally caught up. His past is not great…drove the Australian carrier into the ground…then did the same at Gulf Air. With Etihad, he had a blank cheque from the government. And while he did build the brand, he has been completely outdone by Emirates. Emirates A380 fleet is enormous…and when Etihad launched 3 of them (to LHR, JFK and SYD), it was such a big thing. Why?

    Spending crazy amounts on fashion shows, football (not only Man City but also in the US in New York and Washington) and their “ambassadors”. He also lined up cushy and high paying jobs to his friends (based on Australian nationality rather than experience). Instead, he should have invested in the service side (not the useless flying nannies and inflight chefs) and building out profitable routes.

    He’s all about glamour and marketing with little substance. Look at him compared to the late Maurice Flanagan and Tim Clark who head(ed) Emirates.

    Let’s see which other airline will want to have him.

    Rant over.

    • the real harry says:

      I thought Clark is still there but working out an acceptable retirement date

      Clark has done very well for Emirates, I hope they have made him a multi-millionaire, he deserves it

  20. Peter Taysum says:

    OT Anyone any experience of Hilton honouring status for booking made via BA? I’ve got a suite booked in Mumbai, and am hoping to get late checkout, and points from my Gold status….