Now air berlin’s topbonus Frequent Flyer Program Has Declared Bankruptcy

Two months ago when air berlin devalued its frequent flyer program topbonus staff reached out to try to convince me I had it all wrong. I wasn’t persuaded.

Last week oneworld airline air berlin declared Germany’s version of bankruptcy after losing billions of dollars. Essentially air berlin had been run as a vassal of Etihad, and Etihad decided to stop funding the losses which weren’t stopping or shrinking.

It seemed clear that the airline would be sold off for parts rather than finding a buyer to keep the entire thing together.

And even though the frequent flyer program had been spun off as a separate company, largely as a mechanism to provide the airline with additional cash and for Etihad to exercise additional control in spite of foreign ownership limits over the carrier itself, the loyalty program was forced to suspend mileage earning and redemption. The airline’s entire e-commerce team went looking for jobs as a group.

Now the airline’s topbonus frequent flyer program has itself declared insolvency.

Bankruptcy alone hasn’t meant the end of miles. TWA’s miles were absorbed into American AAdvantage. Pan Am’s miles were absorbed by Delta. Members of smaller programs like Midway’s, Braniff’s, and National’s lost their miles. Eos Club 48 members lost their miles.

When Ansett folded Global Rewards members lost their miles. Initially redeemed Star Alliance reward tickets were dishonored, though eventually customers were allowed to rebook those award and Star partners honored ticketed travel.

There’s no question the topbonus data file has value, but it’s unclear that the liabilities will be picked up by another carrier when the airline sold in pieces.

(HT: @FredCyrusRoeder)

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 »

More articles by Gary Leff »


  1. you’ve called FF programs the golden goose. And mentioned how profitable they are. Given that this was a separate entity, why was this really necessary?

  2. @ABC – because of the convoluted way this deal was structured so that it would funnel cash to air berlin, which burned through that cash. the airline wasn’t actually paying the frequent flyer program cash and the program had little prospect of collecting on the mounting debt.

  3. So your saying that I don’t need to lose sleep over my soon to expire AB miles 🙂

    Sadly AB business TATL was on my bucket list of lines to try one day. Oh well.

  4. @Gary: Didn’t Inside Flyer used to offer insurance against losing your miles in bankruptcy?

  5. Dear all,

    Did someone get the confirmation if miles from Airberlin flights can still be credited to another loyalty program? Or is this no longer valid either?

    I have some Airberlin flights in the next few weeks and I’d like to know if I can get the miles credited through my Iberia Plus account.

    Thanks for your help.

Comments are closed.