Airberlin’s Topbonus Program Is Making A Bizarre Comeback

On August 15, 2017, airberlin filed for insolvency, and then a bit over a week later, airberlin’s spun off loyalty program, topbonus, filed for insolvency. Even though topbonus is technically a separate company, they more or less closed up shop, as it was no longer possible to earn or redeem their miles. I explained the convoluted reasons that this is the case in a separate post, so if you’re not familiar with them, I’d recommend checking out that post.

While airberlin as an airline is on its last leg, it looks like the topbonus program is bringing back mileage earning and redemptions… in a very convoluted way. Per an email sent out to topbonus members:

We have good news for you: starting immediately, you can redeem your miles again. And you can collect miles again when flying with Etihad Airways or making purchases at topbonus partners on the ground.

Mileage credit with Etihad Airways
You can collect award and status miles on flights operated by Etihad Airways within their worldwide route network. Etihad Airways is currently offering 42 connections from Germany, for instance, and 14 connections from Switzerland – to Abu Dhabi and beyond, to more than 50 destinations. Flights that you have already taken with Etihad Airways in the last few weeks will also be credited. This makes your mileage credit complete. Please click here for the relevant route map and the mileage table.

Mileage credit with partners on the ground
Miles can also be collected again at a number of partners on the ground. At Sixt, Europcar, AVIS, Hertz, HRS, Shoop as well as our hotel and car rental portal, you will benefit again from the familiar mileage credits – and this also in retrospect for all miles these partners had not yet credited in the past few weeks. This makes your mileage credit complete as well. The list of our active miles partners is constantly updated and can be accessed here.

Redeem miles in the new “topbonus pop-up shop”
We are particularly happy to announce that, as of now, you are able again to redeem your miles in the new “topbonus pop-up shop”. Starting from 10,000 award miles, you can redeem them, for example, for SIXT, Secret Escapes and HelloFresh vouchers with the following values:

  • 20 € for 10,000 miles
  • 50 € for 20,000 miles
  • 100 € for 50,000 miles (starting next week)

In addition, we also have a selection of attractive product rewards on offer, which you can swap for your miles plus a cash contribution. Our range of product rewards will be expanded weekly.

The new online reward shop is available for all topbonus members worldwide, with the exception of the US. Product rewards can only be redeemed by members placing their orders in Germany, Austria and Switzerland and with delivery addresses in these countries. The product rewards can only be ordered online.

We are working at full speed to reactivate mileage credit at more partners and expand our range of rewards for you. Stay tuned.

This is just plain weird. So it’s now once again possible to earn topbonus miles, but only for travel on Etihad Airways (after all, they’re a majority shareholder in topbonus). Furthermore, it’s once again possible to earn miles with select ground partners, including select car rental companies, hotel and car rental portals, etc.

It’s also once again possible to redeem topbonus miles, though only through their “pop-up shop.” The redemption values are really bad, as you might expect. The topbonus shop is available everywhere in the world except the United States, unfortunately (if you want to access this from the US you’ll have to use a VPN).

 

For example, you can redeem 10,000 miles for a 20EUR (~24USD) voucher, which is the equivalent of 0.24 cents per mile. Ouch.

If redeeming 50,000 miles for a 100EUR voucher with a retail partner doesn’t sound up your alley, you can instead pay part cash and part miles for a bunch of merchandise. For example, you can buy 349EUR Sennheiser headphones for 239EUR plus 25,000 miles, or you can buy a 62.99EUR cutlery set for 35.99EUR plus 10,000 miles.

I figured topbonus would just sort of throw in the towel and realize that without airberlin they don’t have much of a future. Sure, in theory it’s possible for a (former airline) loyalty program to exist without an airline, though it’s much tougher to be successful. I certainly don’t think anyone is going to be lured into using their online portals and doing business with their partners over the prospect of redeeming 50,000 miles for a 100EUR voucher.

In a way I imagine this isn’t too far off from what Aeroplan will look like in 2020, after Air Canada takes back their loyalty program.

(Tip of the hat to YHBU & Vincent)

Comments

  1. What happens with my ~200,000 points which I booked two return flights in business class DUS-CUR-DUS in November which are worth ~€4,000 ????????????

    I’ve been robbed.
    As has my mother of her 70th birthday treat.

  2. Your cents-per-point example is off by a decimal — should be 0.24 cents per mile rather than 0.024. Still terrible of course.

  3. I can see the logic for opening (poor) redemption opportunities from the insolvency administrator’s perspective. Like this they can get rid of liabilities at a low cost.

    However, I really struggle to see why anyone would credit miles flown on EY to Topbonus, now. If I had any EY flights booked, I would certainly credit them to any other program, but not to Topbonus – where I can only redeem them at a very poor rate for vouchers … This would only make sense to me, if EY plans to buy Topbonus out of administration (which could make sense for them, if the price is right).

  4. It looks like that there is not a single item in the whole shop that generates any financial benefit at all.

    Sixt-Vouchers are useless as you have to book via the topbonus portal at higher rates (no discount codes/corporate rates). Minimum rental days requirements will absorb any potential savings even at the 50 EUR level. Instead: topbonus most likely will get some referral income from your booking plus some miles of the balance sheet.

    Cash&Points items are also a bad idea as you get all of the items cheaper or at the same cash price than the cash portion alone by searching the web. Shopping via any cashback portal most likely drop the final price of the higher priced items further.

    Discounts for delivery start ups or online travel agency’s? Give me a break, just look around for free coupons or use their promos for new customers. Zero value to be had again.

    One must applaud the topbonus team though. Reducing the outstanding miles plus generating “klick”-revenue at near to zero cost to them is a smart move.

    Whatever the future holds for topbonus anyone who isn’t completely new to the points & miles scene and ever has heard about things like cash-back or knows how to shop the web should rather stick to the miles and wait.

    Even if you have to go all the way through the whole insolvency process for years. Your miles most likely are worth more than ZERO after that. One can only guess if the topbonus management act in favor for the programm members when it comes to register their outstanding assets in the insolvency claims towards airberlin once the process is started. Basing that guess on the facts one has seen in the past six months there is certainly high doubt that either airberlin itself nor topbonus or our former partners from the Middle East are having any real interest in generating real value for topbonus members without generating new cash-flow.

    Just in case you have missed it: There is another highly questionable offer online:
    http://www.flopbonus.com (in german only)
    Stating “alternate facts” about the insolvency process to lure some poor souls into paying them a 25% commission.

  5. Your remarks about “what Aeroplan will look like” is so far off the mark as to be beneath you (and possibly libellous). Air Miles is a Canadian rewards program that is not directly affiliated with any airline but offers redemptions on AC, WS, PD, AA, DL, LH, NZ at reasonable rates. Aeroplan will be able to negotiate similar redemption arrangements with many airlines outside STAR, so I have no fear that my Aeroplan Miles in 2020 will be as worthless as AB’s have become. If anything it will be a challenge for AC to satisfy its regular flyers who could start the new program with no Miles in their account and have to start from scratch while either holding huge numbers of Aeroplan Miles or having rushed to burn them off…but nonetheless have nothing in their new AltitudeMiles account.

  6. I think you missed a key piece of information: Buried in the (German) FAQ they announce that all award tickets issued on other carriers remain valid and have already been paid for! This is counter to your earlier analysis and my understanding that award tickets are paid after the flight is complete!
    This puts the spot light on Etihad and OneWorld partners – how can they now deny carriage (legally or morally), if topbonus has already paid them! Especiall Etihad will have a hard time explaining why they would deny transport to a passenger on a ticket issued by their majority-owned subsidiary!
    I put the translation and details in my post:
    https://dreamtravelonpoints.com/good-news-or-deceptive-marketing-topbonus-open-to-earn-redeem-miles-reward-tickets-valid/

  7. Diamond Vargas and Andy:

    .24 cents is just under a quarter of a penny.

    A cent is 1/100ths of a dollar.

    If your point, as it should be, is that the cost-per-mile is 24 cents, drop the decimal point. Otherwise, you are stating the cost is 24/100 of a penny, which would be an amazing deal. According to your challenged statement, you get 417 miles for a buck.

  8. I’m better with numbers than names… I meant to address my comment to Diamond Vargas and Ben, aka ‘Lucky’.

    The name I’m most familiar with tonight is Captain Morgan.

  9. That is a joke 🙁
    Should be worth ~€3,000.
    You could have done a return in business class Dusseldorf to Curacao and another DUS-CUR one-way.

    🙁

  10. That is VERY interesting Rupert.
    That needs to be followed up.

    Gutted I used my points for AirBerlin flights for November instead of Etihad 🙁

  11. As if the above wasn’t bad enough, they stretch the pain further by giving you less as you redeem more points!

    You get 50EUR ‘benefit’ for 20,000 points – but need an extra 25% to get 100EUR, at 50,000 points. Normally redemptions are better, or at least consistent, at higher levels.

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