‘Couldn’t make it up’ #2: bmi regional gives out topbonus miles – but you can’t spend them

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OK, this one is going to get complicated.

bmi regional (their lack of capitals, not mine) was launched in November 2012.  After British Airways acquired the ‘original’ ex-British Midland airline, it generously sold the name and the flybmi.com website to a new UK carrier.

bmi regional was set up to link secondary business centres across Europe to major hubs.  It has a fleet of 20 Embraer 135 and 145 aircraft. The airline now operates over 400 scheduled flights a week across 46 destinations in 11 countries.

topbonus (again, no capitals!) was the old airberlin (no capitals) frequent flyer programme.  In an attempt to inject money into airberlin without breaking EU rules on foreign investment in airlines, Etihad bought topbonus from airberlin for a disproportionately high price.

When airberlin went bust a few months ago, it turned out that it hadn’t been paying topbonus for the miles it had issued.  To keep cash in airberlin, Etihad / topbonus only asked for money when miles were redeemed.  This meant that, with airberlin bankrupt, topbonus itself had to go into administration – it had a massive liability (mileage balances, which would cost it money when members redeemed) but airberlin was no longer around to pay.

I was pretty certain that the scheme would be absorbed into Etihad Guest and balances converted into Etihad Guest miles.  I was wrong (so far) – Etihad seems to see some sort of future for topbonus as a German-focused coalition loyalty programme with varied partners.

So, until a few days ago, topbonus was a loyalty scheme which only allowed you to collect miles on Etihad and only allowed you to redeem miles on ONE thing – a ‘€49 plus 5,000 miles’ hotel voucher.

Last week, surprisingly, German regional airline Germania was added as a new topbonus partner – see here.

And then, a couple of days ago, bmi regional was added too.

This is what you will earn when flying bmi regional:

Details are on the topbonus site here.  In summary, you will earn:

250 miles per sector on ‘Sale’ tickets

500 miles per sector on ‘Classic’ tickets

1,000 miles per sector on ‘Classic Plus’ tickets

2,000 miles per sector on ‘Executive’ tickets

However, there is a snag

You can ONLY earn miles if you book your bmi regional tickets via flybmi.com/topbonus.

Tickets booked via the main flybmi website or via a travel agent do not earn any miles.

And you can’t spend the miles …..!

To reiterate what I wrote above, you cannot currently spend topbonus miles.  There is literally nothing – unless you want to pay €49 plus 5,000 miles for a hotel voucher – to spend them on.

And even bmi regional is hiding this new partnership away

If you look at the bmi homepage, there is no mention of this new relationship.  Nothing.

For clarity, topbonus status benefits do not apply to bmi regional, if you still have a shiny topbonus card from the airberlin days.

It is all very odd indeed.  If you are booking flights on bmi regional then, of course, you might as well use the new booking link and earn some miles with topbonus.  They might, one day, be worth something.  Just not today.

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  1. Allardyce Mallon says:

    It’s just beyond believable. Who would have thought that Germany is such a banana republic? Of course, I have a stash of TB miles, a large chunk of which will expire at the end of this year. And you can be sure they won’t extend them, despite the absurd circumstances of having a frequent flyer programme without an airline to spend them on. After all, in Germany the rules are the rules.

    • When it comes to the failure of a company, points (like giftcards and vouchers) are absolutely worthless.

      Never leave it too late to spend them.

  2. It sounds like top bonus is acting as a travel agent only, sort of, with the need of using a specific url.

    Very odd.

  3. RussellH says:

    My e-mail from topbonus re Germania states that using topbonus miles for Germania flights is planned from the beginning of 2018.

    But as I commented on this yesterday, the only ex-UK Germania flight I could find when I got that e-mail was LGW-Priština.

  4. the real harry1 says:

    O/T google ‘Investors fret over Norwegian Air’s rapid growth’ to get behind the FT paywall and read an interesting article on Norwegian.

    I remember I caused a few raised eyebrows when I said Norwegian are a basket case a couple of weeks ago – now we have the mighty FT agreeing with me!

    “They are growing too fast and they can’t execute it,” says Mr Lobbenberg. “They are currently doing whatever they can do to absorb the planes. They’ve started leasing some to Hong Kong Express, selling older aircraft, setting up an Argentine airline. It’s very much the tail wagging the dog in terms of the strategy, or more simply the entire strategy of the airline ends up being dictated by the fact they need to digest the aircraft order.”

    Mr Wober agrees that while Norwegian’s starting principle — that there are a lot of underserved and overpriced long-haul markets — is true, the airline’s execution has yet to be “fully convincing”.

    The rapid fleet expansion has caused a big increase in net debt — from almost NKr3.8bn in 2012 to NKr21.1bn in 2016. Mr Wober points to concerns over the balance street “getting more and more stressed”.

    In September Michael O’Leary, Ryanair’s chief executive, said both Monarch, the UK’s fifth-biggest airline, and Norwegian were running out of cash and perhaps would not survive the winter. A month later, Monarch collapsed after it failed to find a buyer for some of its assets.’

    • *further down the same article:

      ‘Some analysts agree that fears are overblown and Norwegian is unlikely to succumb to a Monarch-like collapse.’

  5. Very OT – We have a BA flight from T5 departing at 08.30am and are traveling with a baby and toddler… is there any way to drop the car seats off the night before? I have a feeling someone mentioned something a while back?

  6. Here’s me thinking Virgin Trains East Coast had a screwed up loyalty policy!

  7. Still fuming I lost two business class flights DUS – Curacao which were TopBonus points redemptions.
    I seem to have no way of recourse 🙁

    • the real harry1 says:

      did you pay any element on Visa/ MC? eg (not knowing how TopBonus redemptions work), did you pay something similar to RFS fees on credit card?

      if so, you might have S75 protection, possibly for the whole, ie you could ascribe the TB points a value or simply give the flight a value similar to the cash cost of buying it when you claim using S75

  8. the real harry1 says:

    O/T just tracking my wife’s flight on planefinder.net – seems a good app – and it is about to fly over our place in the sun! 🙂

  9. Ian Booth says:

    Dear Mr XXX

    The year is drawing to an end. It was a challenging year for you as a topbonus member as well as for us as the topbonus team, especially in recent months. However, we were able to re-establish many new offers in key areas of our programme:
    Collecting miles with new airline partners
    Starting from this month, award miles can be collected not only with Etihad Airways but also on all flights with Germania and bmi.
    Please click here for route networks and miles collection tables.
    Redeem miles for reward flights
    We are working hard on re-establishing this option in the coming weeks.
    Collecting miles with partners on the ground
    For an overview of all active miles collection partners on the ground – including our hotel and rental car portals – please click here.
    Redeem miles in our topbonus Pop-up Shop
    The topbonus Pop-up Shop continues to be open for you. More than 20,000 members have already used the opportunity to redeem their miles for vouchers and gifts.
    In 2018, we will continue with topbonus with full steam ahead. We are working on expanding our options to collect and redeem miles within the coming weeks and months.

    Stay with us – it will be worth it!

    Happy holidays and thank you very much for your trust and loyalty.

    Best wishes

    Anton Lill
    Managing Director

  10. losingtrader says:

    And this is somehow different than buying cryptocurrencies as a long-term investment?

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