American Airlines / Oneworld partner Air Berlin files for bankruptcy

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It was announced today that Air Berlin has filed for bankruptcy.

The short version of the details: They have a loan from the German government to make it until sometime in November (at which point it may or may not cease operations).  Lufthansa is apparently in talks to buy pieces of the ailing airline.  Etihad had been propping up Air Berlin (via investment in its frequent flyer program) but has decided that no longer makes sense to them and will stop doing so.

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If you’re US based, you may have never heard of or flown Air Berlin. But they are part of Oneworld, the alliance that American Airlines belongs to, and they have been an important part of the overall route network in and out of Europe for award travel.  From the US to Europe, you currently have American Airlines’ own metal with its terrible award availability, British Airways, which has great availability but very high surcharges, Finnair, which as of late does not have much US-EU availability (though it can be decent within Europe) and is also pretty far north for onward travel into Europe, Spanish carrier Iberia, which has gotten pretty stingy with transatlantic awards, and Air Berlin, which has hit or miss transatlantic award space as well as good intra-EU award space.

You can see that the loss of Air Berlin (AB) will mean the loss of a prominent option for using American Airlines AAdvantage miles or British Airways / Iberia Avios (partners with Chase Ultimate Rewards) to get around Europe.

If you have an upcoming Air Berlin flight beyond early November, you’ll want to keep an eye on things. If you booked using your American Airlines miles and they do in fact cease operations, American should go out of its way to open up availability on their own planes to accommodate you but be aware it may involve extra stops.  You’d also be able to cancel for free and get your miles back should your flight no longer exist.