Technically Air Berlin has more than one award chart. They have one for “partner” awards (in oneways):
But if you decide to fly on Air Berlin or Niki, the price for a ticket from North America to Europe is 25,000 miles. Which is a good choice anyways as they don’t have fuel surcharges.
Otherwise their award chart isn’t too great. North America to Europe on partners for 60k seems okay and 50k is better. But roundtrip for 100,000 to the Middle East isn’t a bad deal but for different reason – their stopover rules.
Their award chart has oneways and much like AA, they allow a stopover on oneways, and a stopover is allowed in the region of origin. Unlike AA, one stopover is also allowed in the destination’s region.
If I’m reading this right, this means that you can essentially have 4 stopovers on a roundtrip. You may have to book the tickets as two separate tickets, I’m not sure yet, but if two stopovers are allowed on one ticket and oneways are allowed… that equals 4.
So can you use this to fly Air Berlin and get stopovers for 50,000 miles? And Doesn’t that mean my only stopover option is Berlin?
Well, this does count on Niki as well as Air Berlin. Niki is based out of Vienna, Austria and Air Berlin is also based out of Dusseldorf, Germany (which I have a layover in soon) as well as Berlin (and it seems that Palma de Mallorca, Spain is officially a hub?). But the good thing about this is that you can do an Air Berlin flight oneway and a partner flight the other way. Although, you’ll see why in a minute another reason to stick with Airberlin/Niki.
The rules for tickets on partner airlines are a bit strict (found here). First of all, domestic trips have no stopover allowed and only one connection allowed. Except they use the term “transfer flight”, which could mean from one hub to another, thus allowing two connections. But I assume it means one connection.
These rules are pretty important…
For award flights between two zones:
- one transfer flight within the origin zone and one within the destination zone is permitted.
- one stopover within the origin zone and one stopover within the destination zone is permitted
For award flights between two zones that are routed via a third zone
- one transfer flight within the origin zone and one within the transfer zone is permitted
- one stopover within the origin zone and one within the transfer zone is permitted
So it limits connections and also says, “Award itineraries must be booked on the most direct routing”, but who knows how that plays out.
It is absolutely unbelievable that they offer this to all members. I kept trying to read about how to get this, and it’s just for basic membership… which is free. I haven’t actually booked it and I found no information on FT regarding it (surprise), but I went through the short terms and conditions and here’s the skinny.
When you book a ticket for two people, the second ticket is 50% off in terms of miles. They still pay full taxes and fees but the member gets to pay half for the second person. It’s not really a companion ticket in that the member does not have to be a passenger. So it’s really a two person discount. There is no discount for anyone after the 3rd person – it says one Companion Ticket per booking is allowed. If I were to book four people, I would do it in two calls.
There is one detail all you spoiled flyers might not like, economy only. Economy on Air Berlin and Niki only. The good news is that tickets on those airlines are already only 50,000 miles roundtrip. So put it all together. 50k for the first person and 25k for the second. That’s 75k total and with the 20,000:25,000 transfer it’s a needed 60,000 SPG points for two people to fly to Europe. Plus stopovers!
One more thing for the T&Cs worth quoting:
If the Master Ticket is cancelled, the Companion Ticket will also be cancelled. Please note that, as per clause 2.4.4 of the terms and conditions of membership, the mileage used in payment will not be re-credited to the member’s account if a ticket is cancelled.
Topdeal is a discount email that goes out with flight intra Europe for 3,000 and 4,000 points. It’s kind of like a PointBreak sale, but shorter lived. They also have done long hauls for 15,000 miles. Like NYC, SFO, Miami to Europe for only 15k. So Topdeal has some great deals on occasion, they are just specific and short lived. They are not combinable with the companion ticket discount.
There are no fees for booking online or over the phone. Unless you’re booking a direct JFK – VIE flight, the website probably won’t be able to book your ticket. Good news for us last minute flyers, there also appears to be no close-in fees (unlike some airlines who charge $75 to book within 21 days of flying (which is stupid)).
The Bad News!
There’s a catch! The 50k roundtrip tickets to Europe are only good on Air Berlin. The Companion Ticket discount- it’s only good on Air Berlin. And you may be thinking that Air Berlin is a fuel surcharge refuge, as British Airways does not charge fuel on AB… but it’s not so.
Fuel surcharges from US to Europe are $536 per round trip ticket (or half for a oneway). That’s not including airport taxes at all. To me, this greatly restricts my desire to use Air Berlin miles. For others, that price is worth the multiple stops but not for me. Especially considering that Business Class is not a great use of their miles, comparatively.
In the end I think it could be one of the better options to Europe. 75k + $1,000 + two international stopovers, isn’t bad. But it isn’t great. I would more likely consider flying and using stopovers and paying 60k each (which is normal compared to other airlines) to fly on partners that don’t have fuel surcharges.
Wait. Does OneWorld have TATL partners without fuel? Not according to ITA…
If you think about it, a lot can be done with these routing rules. And again, 75k Air Berlin miles would only require 60k SPG points. (You can get 30K of those points with the SPG credit card’s current bonus. Click this link if you don’t yet have the card). But would you rather do 120k for two people on a cheaper airline (in terms of fuel surcharge), or 75k + $1,000 in fuel? Or would you rather forgo the stopovers and transfer to AA?