Air Berlin revamps short-haul offering

Air Berlin

Air Berlin has announced several changes to its short-haul offering, as part of a “strategic realignment”.

The Oneworld carrier is introducing a new business class product on domestic and European services, to “offer a consistent product experience on short, medium and long-haul flights for the first time”.

The premium product will be restricted to the first row of each aircraft, where seats already offer 32 inches of legroom, and the middle seat will be kept free.

Announcing the move CEO Stefan Pichler said:

“By introducing a business class on short and medium-haul flights, we are making key strategic decisions that will pave the way to a sustainable future for the company and that will clearly position Air Berlin in the premium sector of European airlines.

“The new premium product will make us more attractive, particularly for business travellers and frequent flyers, and we now offer a seamless business class experience on the global route network by Air Berlin and our partner airlines.”

The changes will also see the removal of free drinks and snacks for short-haul economy passengers, to be replaced by a buy-on-board concept. On flights of 90 minutes or more passengers will be able to purchase meals created by Sansibar restaurant on the island of Sylt.

Business class passengers will be offered a welcome drink, and will then be able to “choose food and beverages ‘à la carte’ from the extensive on-board menu”.

It’s not clear exactly when these changes will be implemented, with Air Berlin stating only that it will be “this year”. Initially offering the new business class product on just one row in each aircraft means there will be little implementation cost to the carrier, allowing it to see if the product is popular before deciding whether to increase the number of premium rows.

Air Berlin – in which Gulf carrier Etihad Airways owns a 29 per cent stake – recently launched transatlantic flights from Dusseldorf to Dallas, San Francisco, Boston and Havana.

airberlin.com

Air Berlin signs codeshare agreement with Flybe

Flybe

Air Berlin has signed a new codeshare deal with Flybe, comprising 15 routes and 316 weekly flights.

The agreement includes routes between Dusseldorf, Berlin-Tegel, Hannover, Munich and Stuttgart and the UK cities of Birmingham, Cardiff, Doncaster, Manchester and Southampton.

It means Flybe customers will be able to connect at Air Berlin’s hubs in Dusseldorf and Berlin-Tegel, onto long-haul routes to Abu Dhabi, San Francisco, Boston, LA and New York.

It’s the German carrier’s 23rd codeshare partnership, and Flybe’s 10th codeshare deal, with the regional carrier recently having agreed an interline partnership with Singapore Airlines.

Tickets for the new codeshare agreement are bookable at both flybe.com and airberlin.com.

Etihad acquires 70 per cent stake in Air Berlin’s Topbonus programme

Air Berlin has established its loyalty programme as a separate company, and sold 70 per cent of the business to Etihad Airways, with plans to “strengthen the existing partnership between Etihad Guest and Topbonus”.

The move will see the Topbonus programme partnering with PointsPay, an app allowing points and miles to be exchanged for cash. Etihad Guest was the first loyalty scheme to sign up to the PointsPay programme.

The value of the transaction is €200 million, consisting of a cash injection of €50 million, and debt financing of €150 million, with Air Berlin receiving €184 million as part of the transaction.

Etihad Airways said that the purchase was “the first step in the establishment of a global loyalty management platform”, with “a critical mass of valuable, high-spending consumers”.

Announcing the acquisition Etihad’s president and CEO James Hogan said:

“This new investment creates an excellent growth opportunity for us to capitalise on the loyalty management market, while offering a greater range of benefits to passengers from multiple partner airlines.

“The acquisition of a stake in the new Topbonus company is part of our strategic evolution to create a ‘house of brands’ loyalty management company, with global scale.

“The loyalty programme sector is a faster growing and higher margin business than the airline industry.  This new approach allows both our companies to reap greater rewards together, with opportunities to generate sustained profits from our loyalty programmes.

“The new company also provides an attractive vehicle for other airlines looking to generate further revenues from the fast-growing loyalty management sector.”

Etihad owns a 29.21 per cent stake in Air Berlin, and the two airlines have launched reciprocal earn and burn benefits on each other’s frequent flyer programmes (see online news December 19, 2011).

The carriers have also announced that in the first year since the alliance was established, it has “allowed the carriers to deliver more than 300,000 passengers onto each other’s networks and collectively generated more than €100 million in additional revenues, far outstripping the initial estimates”.

For more information visit etihadairways.com, airberlin.com.

Report by Mark Caswell

Air Berlin set to adopt Etihad’s business class seating

Air Berlin looks set to refit selected A330 aircraft with Etihad’s business class seating, following the Gulf airline’s increased shareholding in the German carrier last year.

When Business Traveller was given a tour of one of Air Berlin’s A330 aircraft at the carrier’s Oneworld inauguration event earlier this week (click here for more details), a spokesperson confirmed that the current angled lie-flat seating would be replaced with Etihad’s fully-flat offering on the Berlin-Abu Dhabi route later this year.

When pressed for further details today, the carrier said that “We [have] just started to build a task force to discuss further steps regarding Etihad’s business class seating on Air Berlin’s A330-200 aircraft.”

Etihad Airways increased its shareholding in Air Berlin to 29 per cent in December last year (see online news December 19, 2011), and recently announced that the two carriers would be integrating their Boeing Dreamliner programmes in order to “share infrastructure, pool maintenance, develop joint training programs, and streamline purchasing activity for engines, rotables, avionics and inflight entertainment systems, as well as work jointly on product development for the new aircraft type” (see online news March 13 for more information)

Air Berlin launched four times-weekly flights between Berlin and Abu Dhabi in January (see online news January 16), adding to existing Etihad services from Dusseldorf, Frankfurt and Munich, with reciprocal codeshares on all of these routes.

Visit airberlin.com, etihadairways.com.

Report by Mark Caswell