Many Air Berlin Long Haul Flights May Be Discontinued End of September

oneworld member air berlin filed for bankruptcy two weeks ago after Etihad withdrew its support. The German government extended a loan guarantee (subsidy) to keep the airline flying while a sale of assets was arranged. The airline has cumulatively lost several billion dollars.

The airline’s topbonus frequent flyer program has filed for bankruptcy as well. They’re no longer offering earning or redemption. They no longer had the possibility of being repaid debt owed by the airline, or collecting funds from airline mileage accrual.

Although European discount airlines have made noises about being interested in buying the full carrier, it’s not clear how real those entreaties are, and it’s expected that the carrier will be sold off in pieces — much to the chagrin of Lufthansa’s competitors who see unfair advantage being granted to the German flag carrier in the bidding, and to consumers in German markets who will see greater consolidation.

The German subsidy was meant to provide three months of runway for an orderly disposition of assets, though the carrier appears to be adjusting its flying already. There’s a recognition that few people are buying tickets even on services offered due to uncertainty which creates a vicious spiral of even greater losses, and a need to pull back on routes right away to conserve cash.

While no official announcement has been made German media appears to be reporting an end to long haul flying from Berlin in late September with only limited change as yet to Dusseldorf’s long haul network. (Quotes Via Google Translate)

The insolvent airline Air Berlin is removing all long-haul flights from Berlin!

Flights to Abu Dhabi, Los Angeles, Chicago and San Francisco, as well as the connection Düsseldorf-Boston will only be carried out until 1 October.

First connections will be deleted as early as 18 September.

As picked up by a German blog,

Although an official announcement of the cancellations is still missing, airberlin’s booking form will only show availability on the “Flex” tariff from 18 September to 1 October 2017 on all long-haul routes from Berlin.

This has always been a good indicator of a route deletion. With the connections from Düsseldorf as well as on transfer connections via Düsseldorf, all booking classes are still bookable. The only exception to this is the connection to Boston, which is also scheduled for September 18 and not as planned before the end of October.

The following airberlin routes will be deleted at the end of September:

  • Berlin – Abu Dhabi (both daily connections, originally bookable continuously)
  • Berlin – Chicago (originally bookable continuously)
  • Berlin – Miami (should be resumed at the end of October)
  • Berlin – New York (originally bookable continuously)
  • Berlin – Los Angeles (originally until the end of October 2017)
  • Berlin – San Francisco (originally until the end of October 2017)
  • Düsseldorf – Boston (originally until the end of October 2017)

Just yesterday I suggested to someone that I would still make a bet on air berlin flights in September but not after that. My thinking was that it would take time to sort through an asset sale and the goal of the German government seems to be to protect airline jobs (this loan guarantee is an expensive way of doing that over a very short period of time).

Nonetheless I’m still surprised to see this possibly happening as quickly as it appears.

(HT: Frederik R.)

Update: Read down through the comments about JFK Berlin being bookable, and coverage in German of Lufthansa possibly taking over the route.

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, 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. A lot of people talk about flying inaugural flights. Any thoughts about being on a final airberlin flight? Like maybe Berlin to Los Angeles? Might have the plane to yourself.

  2. Well 20m ago checked friend flights for Oct 1 jfk-txl and was J9 Y9 then zeroed out, now back to showing all fare buckets

  3. Most of the world won’t miss Air Berlin, but USA flyers in the know — at least those collecting miles on oneworld partners — benefited from their surcharge-free award tickets. What I’ve always found odd, though, is how little nonstop service there is from the USA to Berlin (other than the Air Berlin flights). This is a big, important and prosperous metropolis, without much nonstop service to the USA. I’m guessing Air Berlin’s demise will lead to some replacement service. I think AA would be the leading candidate as a oneworld replacement. No one has ever flown Berlin to Philly, but given AA’s other new Eastern Europe routes, I’d be hard-pressed to think why this one wouldn’t work. BTW, I guess that new-and-perpetually-delayed airport in Berlin is now even less urgent, as there should be lots of available gates at TXL this fall.

  4. @Gary Leff — Yeah, I just saw that report, too. It’s a no-brainer for Lufthansa (at the right price, of course). And I assume this is something that the German gov’t would very much like to see (including German officials who need to fly to the USA). Lufthansa does currently fly from Tegel to EWR, which makes sense from a codeshare/connecting standpoint with UA.

    Aside from the unpredictable launch of service by one of the new low fare airlines, I still think the most likely other new service is from AA. Given their focus on PHL, though, I doubt they’d launch their own TXL-JFK flight.

  5. Any recommendations on what I should do if I have flights scheduled with them..departing NY to Berlin- TLV sept 27 return flight October 17..also what would happen if they suspended flights between my departure and return..thanks in advance

  6. Hmmm interesting. I literally just minutes ago got an email from them (auf deutsch) about the topbonus program and my miles. You’d almost kinda sorta think it’s business as usual there

  7. Having lived in both NY and Berlin, I know a little about the challenge for the city of Berlin, which is that it is a political hub but not an industry hub. There are only a few businesses headquartered out of Berlin, while most have stayed in (former) West Germany after reunification.

    Berlin is certainly a cultural hub, but it doesn’t have the same ring as Paris, Venice or Rome, so tourism is high intra-Europe but not long haul. The reverse is true: lots of Germans in and around Berlin/East Germany love visiting NY, but perhaps those are more seasonal rather than year round.

    Of course, government types would love to fly Berlin – USA direct, but I would argue a Berlin – DC flight might make more sense than NY.

    I have enjoyed flying AB on long haul in their excellent business class. And I love the heart shaped Lindt chocolate they handed out at the end of a flight. I will be sad to see Air Berlin go.

  8. @Maarten — Agreed, which is why Berlin will never get as many transatlantic flights as FRA or even MUC. But still. This is a very important, very affluent European city with a big population and few transatlantic flights — and now, apparently, many fewer! I’ve got to believe those Air Berlin flights will be largely replaced. With the US airlines arguably “under-serving” Berlin, I think we will see some new routes.

  9. Delta and United are still serving Berlin to JFK and Newark respectively. But I prefer the prices and service found with AB any day over those two. Sadly, that will now become a thing of the past…

  10. I had an award ticket on AB for November with AA miles. I called AAdvantage, and the agent told me not to worry – under Chapter 11 it’s business as usual in a bankruptcy and passengers will notice no difference. I told him AB is a German company, and Chapter 11 has nothing to do with it. He seemed genuinely confused as to why I insisted on paying an extra $45 to rebook a connecting flight on BA/AA through London, instead of taking the nonstop (and now obviously “non-fly”) AB route to ORD. I agree that this puts a big hole for in Europe for OneWorld, which was already far inferior there to Star Alliance.

  11. we have flight tickets for October….Airberlin is telling us just wait another company will pick up your tickets…has anyone out there been rescheduled to another company?? Worried

  12. Hi Karen,
    We are flying AB Sept 29 from Chicago and the flight no longer exists yet we have received no notice from AB and their phone line has been busy for 4 days. I don’t know what we’re going to do. We have trip insurance, but without something from AB showing the cancellation, we are screwed

  13. We have tickets for Chicago to Berlin in October. What are the chances our tickets will get picked up by another carrier. We don’t want to have to rebook and pay more for another airline

  14. I’m flying from Berlin to JFK on 29th of september and returning 8th of october. Has airberlin notified of cancellations how much in advance? And are they responsible for rebooking an alternative flight if they cancel flights?

  15. I am an American citizen, currently residing in Germany.

    Tonight, I was interested in booking a ticket from Munich, Gemany, to Bangkok, Thailand,

    from April 18, 2018 to May 16, 2018, with Air Berlin, but after two attempts to book this flight,

    I received a message during my search, that my flight could not be booked. I thought that it

    was business as usual. Please explain.

    Thank you.

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