Air Berlin sell-off: what passengers need to know

Air Berlin flights are still taking off thanks to an emergency loan from the German government but many long-haul flights have been cancelled

Berlin (AFP) – The 40-year history of Germany’s Air Berlin will end in the coming weeks, as its planes and other assets are sold off in bankruptcy proceedings. Here’s what passengers need to know:

– Is Air Berlin still flying? –

Flights are still taking off thanks to an emergency loan from the German government.

The financial stopgap is supposed to last until November, giving bosses time to wind up the company by selling off its planes and takeoff and landing slots to other airlines.

If the plan fails, the company will be liquidated and all flights will be cancelled.

– Which flights are affected? –

Long-haul flights to Boston, Havana, Varadero in Cuba, Punta Cana and Puerto Plata in the Dominican Republic, Cancun, Curacao, Abu Dhabi, Chicago, Los Angeles and San Francisco have been cancelled.

But Air Berlin is keeping its popular route to New York aloft for the time being.

– What if my flight is cancelled? –

Only tickets bought from Air Berlin before August 15 — the date the airline declared bankruptcy — are eligible for a full refund under insolvency rules.

If you bought tickets before then, there’s no chance of a refund unless the flight is cancelled or if the sale of Air Berlin falls through.

If you bought tickets through a tour operator, they generally have insurance to cover cancellations.

– What if my flight is cancelled last-minute? –

The European Consumer Centre advises passengers to insist on a replacement flight and refuse to pay for any hotel stays that might be necessary.

Travellers should also avoid checking too many bags to avoid complicated damages claims against the insolvent company.

– Can I cancel my ticket pre-emptively? –

No. Passengers can’t break their contract for fear of a possible cancellation of their flight.

Normal cancellation rules apply to customers despite the unusual situation.

– Should I still buy flights from Air Berlin? –

Airlines in financial trouble often try to sell off tickets at rock-bottom prices online.

“People should know that there’s a possibility they will lose their money and that their flight will be cancelled,” transport lawyer Eva Klaar told Germany’s Bild newspaper.

– What about my air miles? –

Air Berlin’s TopBonus air miles scheme is also bankrupt, with passengers unable to use their points to buy flights.

But they still have the option to trade them in for a limited range of rewards in the airline’s online shop.


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