Want To Redeem Airberlin Miles? You Better Speak German

Airberlin is both a member of the oneworld alliance and also an Etihad Airways Partner, so there are quite a few cool ways to redeem airberlin topbonus miles. You can redeem topbonus miles for travel on airberlin directly through their website. However, if you want to redeem for travel on any of their partners, including American, Etihad, etc., you have to book by phone.

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You’ll have to call if you want to redeem airberlin miles on Etihad

There’s only one small problem — the airberlin topbonus team doesn’t have any English speaking agents, so you can only book your award in German. Topbonus used to have an English-speaking call center, though I guess due to their financial situation and cost cutting measures, they eliminated it a while back.

LoyaltyLobby wrote about this in the past, and airberlin’s PR office claims that they’ll eventually bring back an English-speaking call center. However, there doesn’t seem to be an actual timeline for that happening.

Reader Denis just wrote in to share his experience trying to redeem topbonus miles through the call center without speaking German. Here’s what he said, in part:

I first faced that in June when I needed to change a previously booked award. I spent hours trying to get someone to speak English and finally there was a guy willing to do so. Then in September I had to burn some expiring miles in their shop because I couldn’t get anyone to speak English. And it’s not a pleasant experience. You have to call to Germany +491806343333 (0.60 eur per call) then it’s a long menu in German. Then if you’re lucky you get connected to an agent. Most of them are quite rude and after repeating several phrases in German they just hang up.

Today I tried to book an award and it’s the same story – rude agents who hang up the phone and are not willing to speak English. The menu itself is still all in German. I ended up asking a friend of mine to call them and book an award on my behalf. She also asked about English support (we thought it might be available during particular hours) but she was told they don’t have anyone. So it doesn’t look they’re working on it. Otherwise they could at least rewrite the menu with some information in English.

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Airberlin 737

While airberlin is a German company, presumably they want people from around the world to be members of their program. So it’s insane to think that the only way to redeem miles with them by phone is through a German call center.

I know the airline has to cut costs, but that might be taking it too far, in my opinion…

Has anyone faced this issue when trying to redeem airberlin miles by phone?

About lucky

Ben Schlappig (aka Lucky) is a travel consultant, blogger, and avid points collector. He travels about 400,000 miles a year, primarily using miles and points to fund his first class experiences. He chronicles his adventures, along with industry news, here at One Mile At A Time.

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Comments

  1. Imagine how difficult it must be for them to find German employees who actually cannot speak English. I have never encountered a German who either isn’t fluent or isn’t trying very hard. They will sometime’s humor me with my horrible German before slipping back to English. Ben, you have also commented on how difficult it is to find Germans in the industry to even speak to you in German. So, it appears that this is some sort of odd policy of purposely not allowing English to be spoken by a call center. How odd is that?

  2. just to mess with your mind Air Berlin is actually an English company (full name Air Berlin PLC comapmy number 5643814) but operates in Germany. Not uncommon in Europe at all.

  3. Imagine how difficult it must be for them to find German employees who actually cannot speak English.

    Hah! Exactly. I found it hard to practice my German in Germany because as soon as they hear your accent they switch to English.

  4. As a German I can attest that the call center experience is also a mess if you are fluent in German. The agents are incompetent and rude with very few exceptions. I just redeemed my last remaining topbonus miles and I’m done with that airline.

  5. I speak both English and German and dealing with them was a nightmare. I was never able to get any award on any AA flight. Even for flights that showed T7 availability, visible on Expertflyer, BA.com, etc., they kept repeating “nothing available”. For the entire schedule.

  6. Agreed with above. Germans get especially excited if they hear American English, at least in my experience.

    I wound up in a Japanese restaurant once in Frankfurt in the financial district during lunch time and I didn’t hear a phrase of German in a full restaurant. Everyone was speaking English and only small portion were American. Quite a surreal experience.

  7. I just sent an email question to their cust support and got an answer back in matter of hours. Their website majorly ‘su.s’. After I made an online reservation/booking (during reservation paid for a specific seat), I wanted to change the seat . No way on the website I could do that. arrrrrg They helped me via emails. That had to cost to have a person read emails, do something on reservation, and write back nice email what he/she did.
    you can’t really beat their prices so I guess I suck it up and deal with them this way aka emails.

  8. @Rob, agreed on the surreal experience. Belgium and Holland trumps that because a person switches from dutch to german to english to french (and a very few to italian or spanish) from one sentence to another. I was amazed with Brussels Air flight attendant speaking everyone on flight with different languages (based on where the passenger was from) Even in little tobacco/gift shop at Amsterdam airport, the elderly salesperson spoke different languages based on customer’s language.

  9. When did this happen? I spoke English with them in 2014. (Besides I’m kind of surprised just based on my experience with Germans in general and their English skills.)

  10. @Mark F. @John @Rob +1 !!

    Absolutely impossible to practice my German in Germany — their English wins every time!

  11. Many years ago, I used to work for a very large US phone company, in their Spanish call center.
    If we were to get an English speaker, we would route the call to the English call center across the hallway, even though I’m fluent in English.
    They would do the same for Spanish speakers.
    The reason, union… we would get pay more for language skills.
    If you’re taking an English call they can file a grievance and viceversa.
    Not sure if it’s the same way over there.

  12. You can hire a German speaking interpreter via relay. There are companies out there. I dont know how much they cost but its one loophole around the situation.

  13. It was bad enough calling in for the AirBerlin Limo Service from TXL. I could only find a German number (for limo) but I called the US number for the service center just incase. While the US center had plenty of English the only thing they could do was give me the german number again for the limo service. Luckily the gentlemen on the line spoke alittle English and after 12 minutes was able to book the limo transfer.

    This is what I get for flying with Etihad and not Lufthansa 🙂

  14. Problem is: Callcenter Agents in Germany are not well paid. So they may not hire the best educated or well enough to speak english educated so no wonder…

  15. Hi there from Germany!
    I have to add something here: aiberlin is, by far, the most lovable airline we got in Germany. airberlin is like a huge nice family, always nice and willing to help. So one more thing to support struggling airberlin.
    I have to add that i wasn’t aware that airberlin didn’t have the ‘for english please press 0’ service anymore since i don’t use it. Thats just sad! But almost everybody in good old Germany speaks at least some english, since education is quite good here. So you might have to try again until you find someone who is able to help you in english. Maybe also try to different times! I really get that this is not a very nice thing to do! Keep hoping airberlin recovers soon!
    PS: I booked award flights from LAX to Hawaii with AA online. Also domestic flights all over the States are available online! Might be false information in the article..

    Greetings from a Student Pilot of Pilot Training Network in Frankfurt.

  16. I have had this problem a couple of times, so at one point simply gave up to redeem my AirBerlin miles. I also tried to redeem via online (online services -> book an award flight), but couldn’t find any button to choose economy or business (only economy as default). Any way to choose business class in their online award search tool?

    https://www.airberlin.com/en/booking/flight/vacancy.php?sid=d2f5874cf8d5cc127f17&ab_source=de_site_tb_partner_index_php_cid3_AB_redeem&ab_medium=website&ab_campaign=tb-praemienflug&ab_content=button_top

  17. @Jessie

    You don’t chose Business Class in your _search_, but in the _tesults_.

    If there is business class availabilty, there will be two boxes to tick at the end of the line with the title. Economy will be ticked by default, then you can tick the Business box.

    In your example, there is Business availability for DUS-JFK on 12FEB, but for JFK-DUS on 12FEB, but if you click on “Flights on 13/02/17, you will see the Economy and Business boxes appear, meaning there is Business availability on 13FEB for JFK-DUS. You could now book DUS-JFK/JFK-TXL-DUS on 12FEB /13FEB in Business Class for 80k miles & EUR 478.45.

  18. Coincidence: A couple of weeks ago, I have booked the two seats available in Business Class on 10FEB on the DUS-JFK leg. 😉

  19. “aiberlin is, by far, the most lovable airline we got in Germany”

    Haha! I loled! Since they have to cut costs they became a pain up… you know…

  20. @ David

    But what you explained is ONLY with the case of “air berlin”. With this case, I also see the boxes for eco or biz. However when I search for partner airline (e.g. CX, AUH) award, biz option is never available online (even if it was indeed available when I talked to a Top Bonus agent). Also while QR biz available on phone with a Top Bonus agent, it never shows at Air Berlin award online search.

  21. @jessie

    Correct. There are very few partner airlines that can be searched / booked online (AA, EY, BA, AY if memory serves correctly), and those only in Economy.

    There are many better award search sites for oneworld awards (ba.com for example).

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