A couple of days ago I wrote about how airberlin filed for insolvency, after Etihad withdrew its financial support. There’s no need to panic immediately, as the German government is giving the airline an emergency loan of 150 million Euros, which is expected to last them for a few months. Hopefully they are able to restructure and continue to operate in one form or another after that date.
However, it looks like there’s an interesting side effect to this for passengers who were already booked on the airline — airberlin tickets issued through August 11, 2017, are no longer refundable, even if you booked a refundable ticket. Per a notice sent out to travel agents:
WILL TICKETS ALREADY ISSUED BE REIMBURSED?
All tickets issued until August 11th 2017 are no longer refundable. Tickets valid from August 12th 2017 will be subject to the applicable tariff conditions.
CAN TICKETS BE REBOOKED?
The tariff conditions valid at ticket issuance are still actual. Issued tickets can be rebooked on the basis of the valid tariff conditions, if these include the possibility to change a booking. If fees apply, they must be paid by the passenger.
WILL AGREED TARIFF CONDITIONS (FOR EXAMPLE, COMPANY RATES, TOUR OPERATOR FARES OR CONSOLIDATOR RATES) REMAIN?
All tickets issued until August 11, 2017 are not refundable. Tickets valid from 12 August 2017 will be subject to the applicable tariff conditions.
Logically you’d think this would be illegal. You pay extra for a refundable ticket, but then they retroactively change the rules on you. FlyerTalk member ralfkrippner has a great explanation about why this restriction is being put in place:
German insolvency law distinguishes “old debt” from before the filing date from “new debt.” New debt has a higher status und thus the management would violate insolvency law and be personally liable if they pay out funds to creditors with “old debt” before the final liquidation of the company and its assets with a quota part payment. And tickets issued before filing date Aug. 11 are definitely old debt. Besides from that the acceptance of such tix for transport is also a violation but it probably was the first decision of the official insolvency procurator to honour old tix for transportation as otherwise the company would shut down immediately without any potential for continuation and therefore chance of upholding value of assets.
I guess that sort of kind of makes sense in a backwards way.
However, I suspect if you use a credit card with decent protection then you should be able to dispute the charge, given the terms based on which you bought a ticket. Furthermore, you should have no issue refunding a partner award ticket for travel on airberlin that was booked through another program.
What a strange situation…
(Tip of the hat to @FlyingDutchBlog)