Today our regular series Award Success features a redemption using Air Berlin Topbonus miles for a flight from Bangkok to Helsinki in Business Class on Finnair’s A350 Aircraft.
John will fly back to Europe this week and since there are still reports of Air Berlin not having English speaking agents available (even though the option has now been added in the phone menu) I gave them a call to complete the reservation.
Booking flights with Air Berlin TopBonus can be a challenge especially when you look for Business Class awards.
Like so many other airlines Air Berlin requires you to call for most partner airline reservations but in this case it was especially strange because you can actually find the Finnair flight on the desired day of departure but only in Economy Class despite Business Class being available (checked on other partner search engines such as BA Executive Club and American AAdvantage).
Air Berlin charges 40,000 Topbonus Miles in Economy and 80,000 Miles in Business Class for the flight from Bangkok to Helsinki as well as 144,90 EUR in taxes and fees.
John still had a rather high balance of Topbonus miles that largely derived from a promotion Air Berlin ran in 2014 where you could purchase 70,000 miles for 349 EUR (we wrote about it here).
These miles would soon expire and so to top up the account to the required 80,000 for the award John transferred 2680 SPG points to Air Berlin which hit the account within a week.
I was prepared for the worst when I rang up Air Berlin at their German hotline but was really surprised about the efficiency. The lady was able to find the flight immediately and offered it in both Economy and Business Class. Reservation and payment were completed quickly and the entire phone call lasted only 4 minutes and 50 seconds.
As mentioned before there is now an option to select an English speaking agent but readers have told us that sometimes nobody picks up that line or it results in endless wait times which was the reason for me doing this call in the first place, namely to avoid the hassle.
80,000 miles + 144,90 EUR are a high price for a simple one way award such as this (although in line with the competition) but considering they were purchased for very little money and nearing their expiration date John decided it would be best to just get rid of them and clean out the Air Berlin account, especially since nobody knows whats next for the cash bleeding carrier.
As far as the booking process went I can say it was very pleasant on a Sunday morning with no wait time and efficient service.
The few routes where Air Berlin does offer Business Class flights online seem to be for their own flights as well as flights operated by Etihad only. They probably try to discourage people booking premium class awards on partners and make them call in instead which isn’t really a big deal.