This past week airberlin filed for insolvency, after Etihad withdrew their financial support. Usually when airlines file for insolvency or bankruptcy protection, it’s initially “business as usual.” After all, as the company tries to figure out the future, they want to make sure that they’re doing everything they can to maintain public confidence as much as possible.
However, that hasn’t been the case with airberlin. That’s partly due to German insolvency law, and the requirement to differentiate “old debt” and “new debt.” It seems like there’s more to the story than that, though.
I’ve already written about how airberlin won’t be paying compensation for delayed flights that took place through August 15, 2017, because this is considered “old debt.” Similarly, refundable tickets booked prior to August 15 are no longer refundable. It’s bizarre to me that changing terms in such a way is legal, but apparently the rules are being enforced as such precisely due to the law, and because airberlin now can’t pay back “old debt” (in this case your refundable ticket booked prior to August 15) before paying back their “new debt” (for now a government loan of 150 million Euros).
Well, it looks like that wasn’t the end of the changes. Airberlin’s topbonus program has suspended mileage accrual and redemption until further notice. Per a notice on their website:
We cannot currently (since Saturday, 19. Aug.17) guarantee that your miles will be credited. We have had to suspend mileage accruals and redemptions pending clarification of the situation.
We are working hard to resolve the matter as soon as possible and hope for your understanding.
Thank you for your patience.
We don’t officially know the reason for this. What makes this interesting is that topbonus is a spun off frequent flyer program, so it’s separate from the airline. It was spun off in 2012, and is 70% owned by Etihad, and 30% owned by airberlin. So I’m not really sure why this would happen.
I suspect you could still earn miles with a partner loyalty program for airberlin flights, and similarly, that you can still redeem partner miles for airberlin flights. For example, American AAdvantage still shows mileage accrual charts for airberlin, and aa.com also still shows award availability for airberlin.
So it seems like the topbonus program specifically is not allowing the earning and redeeming of miles.
This is way beyond my area of expertise, though I’m not sure if the issue here is that the frequent flyer program is partly owned by airberlin, and as a result, the liability of miles is considered “old debt.” Or maybe it’s something completely different.
I guess we’ll have to wait and see how this plays out. In the meantime, if you do fly airberlin, I’d recommend crediting miles to another program (and hopefully those miles do in fact credit).
Historically when an airline has been taken over by another, that new airline matches the status and miles that members had with the old program. However, that’s no guarantee, given that everything about programs can change at will with no notice.
While I understand airberlin is in a tough situation, I’m sure disappointed in their horrible communication job. You’d think it would be in their best interest to explain to customers why certain changes are being made, rather than just making them with no explanation. Simply saying “hey, your refundable ticket is now non-refundable” doesn’t do much to instill confidence in consumers (not that the real answer would instill much confidence either, but at least everyone would be on the same page).
What a mess this airline is in…
What do you make of topbonus basically shutting down temporarily?
(Tip of the hat to View from the Wing)