BREAKING: oneworld Airline airberlin Files for Bankruptcy

oneworld member airberlin has among the worst-performing financials of any airline in the world. In the first quarter its operating margin was -42%. Disastrous investments in airberlin and Alitalia led to the ouster of Etihad’s CEO.

Their topbonus frequent flyer program was spun off as a separate entity with 70% sold to Etihad for about a quarter of a billion dollars. It’s not even primarily a loyalty program. It’s a financing mechanism and backdoor way for Etihad to control the airline itself in spite of foreign ownership restrictions. Etihad overpaid. On purpose.

Whenever writing about airberlin I’ve included the caveat about their offers ‘for as long as they’re flying at least’ or something similar. They’ve scaled back flying, trying to cut to stem losses. But it’s not clear they’ve had a viable plan to do so. And Etihad’s appetite for funding the operation — with a goal of feeding traffic through Abu Dhabi — has run out.

Etihad has withdrawn its financial support and airberlin has filed for bankruptcy or rather ‘insolvency’.

The discount carrier and subsidiaries submitted the filing in a local Berlin court, though it won’t seek bankruptcy protection for its Niki Luftfahrt GmbH and Leisure Cargo GmbH units, Air Berlin said in a statement. Talks with Deutsche Lufthansa AG and other parties regarding disposals are continuing, it said.

For now operations continue, though what changes will be necessary and what the future corporate structure (and partnerships) look like remain an open question.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Well at least I no longer need to worry about my expiring air Berlin miles or their moronic miles program that seems to hate Americans by not allowing us to use parts of the website to earn or burn miles. Not to mention it’s stupid rolling expiration dates.

  2. if they’re being sold off piece-meal, I’d imagine them ceasing to a oneworld member within a couple years ?

    by then your transatlantic redemption options will be the non-existent AA saver, the YQ ransom at BA, the limited routing choices via IB/MAD or EI/DUB, or lovely scenic detour via AY/HEL (significant backtrack to most of western Europe)

    their best hope for a new continental European member would be luring someone like LOT over to their side.

  3. Very bad news for American mile holders. I used to depend on redeeming on AB to Europe. But AB virtually disappeared from available rewards leaving almost nothing but British awards with their huge unbelievable “fees”.

  4. one world will Not even Remember them…..pathetic Operation with Poor Management and No Business Plan. airBerlin was a silly gamble on the part of OW several years ago and over time Most Partners shunned them like a red haired step child with measles, poison ivy and Ebola….. truly dreadful!

  5. Remember when the US airlines all declared bankruptcy one by one? They did it to gut union contracts and pension agreements. When American Airlines filed, they had over $2 billion in cash…but they were allowed to pretend they were in dire straights. So, their long-time employees and retirees got screwed.

    I wonder if there’s any of that going on here?

  6. airBerlin has been in Trouble since they went on a foolish Buying Spree of multiple Airlines several years Ago, went thru multiple Mgmnt Shakeups, couldn’t decide what Type of Business Plan and FOCUS on it and the New Berlin Airport SuperHub debacle….. Cluster* of Disasters. The Rank and File Employees are the Victims here

  7. so, since they recently lost my luggage for 18 days, I’m assuming this means I won’t be getting a reimbursement?

  8. airberlin has secured a bridge loan guaranteed by the German government that may keep them operating through November. Lufthansa has indicated strong interest in buying parts of airberlin (they’re already using some airberlin aircraft), and Ryanair has indicated interests as well. These signs would suggest current award holders should seek alternate flights, because aurberlin may well cancel tranches of flights. And we should be prepared for what remains of airberlin to depart oneworld in the near future.

  9. AirBerlin being in ONEWORLD is purely in Membership Only…..not many Members even Codeshare with them anymore. AB became a disjointed Mess of an operation and should have been Formally Tossed Out a couple years ago. one of the Worst run German Companies on record

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