Topbonus program assured at the time it filed for administration that already issued award tickets would be honored. Also, Oneworld issued a statement on this website confirming this. Last week, I wrote about a reader’s case (read more here) where Bangkok Airways had denied boarding on Airberlin issued award ticket in Bangkok.
Apparently, Topbonus has now had change of heart and has been emailing program members informing them that tickets issued but not yet flown are being cancelled due to insolvency process and miles could only be used for flights operated by Etihad for limited period of time (read more here about redeeming on Etihad).
I actually disagree with the Topbonus assessment. The agreement has been with the member and Topbonus. Topbonus has in turn had an agreement with Airberlin to issue these tickets. Topbonus now suddenly very conveniently claims that the agreement has been directly with the consumer and the Airberlin. This doesn’t make much sense, does it?
Topbonus is the creditor with the Airberlin and the member is creditor with the Topbonus that is on the hook to issue the ticket for the consumer.
Topbonus is 70% owned by the Etihad and thus at least theoretically could have deep pocketed backer and way out of this mess. Just buy new tickets for the members!
Seems that the Topbonus “relaunch” is not going as smoothly as they were planning. Just couple of weeks back they were asking members to continue credit transactions to the program that had hardly any partners where one could use their miles beyond some useless vouchers and Etihad economy awards with sky high fuel surcharges.
One can only come to a conclusion that there has not been proper division between Airberlin and Topbonus, although these have been two different legal entities.
Airberlin should have paid hard cash to Topbonus for the miles issued for program members and Topbonus should have in turn paid Airberlin for member redemption once the fight tickets had been issued or flown (usually the latter).
There should be cash reserves for issued yet unflown miles on the Topbonus books. I guess that these are just debts from Airberlin. Not very wise way to run a business and directors should be personally liable for this.
You have to remember that airlines won’t get paid from the ticketing carrier (in this case Airberlin) until they have operated the flights and send the flight coupon (now electronic) for settlement using IATA’s clearing house. If the airline has gone bust and has no funds to pay, the operating airline gets nothing.