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AirBerlin have just declared that they're going bankrupt. I have tickets booked with them for a Berlin-Chicago-Munich itinerary for the end of September.

I understand the German government has provided AB with a loan so they can continue to operate for now; however, unlike with Alitalia, no one seems to be providing any commitment to the length of operations of this company. The question is how do I know for sure my flights are going to operate, without risking a last-minute cancellation from them which will force me to buy expensive last minute tickets? Is there a way to receive money-back on my non-refundable tickets at this point?

Post is related to a rapidly changing event.

  • 6
    The answer is: you just don't know it. – Neusser Aug 15 '17 at 12:40
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    Important note: Air Berlin has filed for bankruptcy protection, not filed for bankruptcy. That's a very different thing. For example, United, Delta and American Airlines have all been in bankruptcy protection (known as "Chapter 11" in the US) for two years or more this century; they're all still operating. – David Richerby Aug 15 '17 at 17:29
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    Crucial missing information a) Did you book directly with them, or through a travel agent? (if in UK, ATOL bond would apply) b) What country do you live in? (determines which consumer laws applies) c) Did you pay with a credit card, debit card, check or cash? (affects your rights with the merchant in a dispute) – smci Aug 15 '17 at 20:04
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    @DavidRicherby A Chapter 11 filing is still bankruptcy. It's just a reorganization bankruptcy rather than a liquidation. Also, I'm not quite sure what the point of mentioning the duration of the reorganization plan is. Each of those airlines have only filed bankruptcy once ever (DL and UA following the huge drop-off in air travel after 9/11 and the .com bust recession, while AA struggled along until the '08/'09 financial crisis put them out of their misery.) Air Canada also filed in between UA and DL. – reirab Aug 15 '17 at 21:18
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    @reirab The relevance of the duration is that the asker only needs their airline to keep flying for a couple of months; United shows that an airline in bankruptcy protection can keep going for three years. – David Richerby Aug 15 '17 at 21:21
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Called AirBerlin. They're saying that at the moment they are expecting all flights within the next 3 months to operate normally and that I should check back in one week to get an update about possible refunds and cancellation policies.

  • Can't get a much more direct answer than this. – Broots Waymb Aug 15 '17 at 15:51
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    There was no need to call - it all is stated on their website. But this does not answer your own question - can you trust this information? – Neusser Aug 15 '17 at 16:12
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    @Neusser can you trust official company statements? Yes. Can the company screw everyone by doing the exact opposite? Yes. But for the stack, an official statement is a reputable source. – Mindwin Aug 15 '17 at 18:32
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    @Mindwin: In typical bankruptcy procedures, the company statements don't count for much once a court-appointed executive takes over operations. The statement can be a valid representation of the intent of Air Berlin, but that still doesn't make it trustworthy. – MSalters Aug 16 '17 at 7:50
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    The question you need to ask is whether you can trust the word of a company on the verge of full bankruptcy. Of course you can't – Valorum Aug 16 '17 at 18:45
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Unfortunately, I would not give a dime on anything which a call center agent tells you now or in a week from now. On the other hand, legally, you don't have too many options unless you did not just purchase a ticket from their website but it would be part of a packaged holiday. In case of packaged holidays there is a mandatory insurance against bankruptcy at least in Germany.

Your problem is: AirBerlin may operate your flight or they may not. You will know once you've arrived at your final destination. Given their personnel situation (which is unlikely to improve now and has been bad already) it will be enough if they cannot find a crew on the day you plan to travel.

On the other hand, you don't have any chance right now IMHO to have your tickets refunded and book with a different airline. The only bet on the future you could make is to try and buy a refundable ticket with another airline now (maybe for a day later) and give it back if AirBerlin will fly.

Last chance: Check the credit card you possibly used to pay for the flight. Some cards (especially and "Silver" and "Gold" cards come with all kinds of insurances. Not sure if bankruptcy of an airline is one of them, but it may be worth checking.)

But please also note that all those insurances would if at all only make sure you either get your money back, but you will still not travel then. At least not at the insurance's expenses. Only if there would be such an insurance and you made it to your destination but your flight back home doesn't take place the insurance would pay for suitable means to get you back home, but that would be all. They will never pay the difference to a more expensive ticket if you haven't started the trip yet.

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    In the US I would be able to chargeback the charge as services not delivered. I guess they don't work the same in Germany. – Joshua Aug 16 '17 at 2:29
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    @Joshua It would be absolutely the same in Germany. The only problem will be that you will end up with a claim against a company which filed bankruptcy. So you will face trouble to cash in that claim. Who would pay in the US in that case? – TorstenS Aug 16 '17 at 6:48
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    @TorstenS: With a credit card, chargebacks don't leave you with a claim. The CC company will be paying Air Berlin with some delay, so they'll have to figure out how to settle the final payments, but that's not your problem. – MSalters Aug 16 '17 at 7:54
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    @TorstenS: I've done it in Europe, fairly recently. And no, I don't have an idea where you got the idea from that sellers benefit from credit cards. CC's are quite bad for sellers. Payments are irreversible after a year or so has passed. – MSalters Aug 16 '17 at 8:16
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    @MSalters You can't chargeback a company which has no money left. If the OP gets their money back in such a case, it most probably means their CC company or bank covered the loss for them. – Dmitry Grigoryev Aug 16 '17 at 8:45
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German news reports say that a government loan will secure the next three months of operation. The intention is to avoid disruption of (return) travel during the summer holidays; quite a lot of Germans are currently abroad with AirBerlin tickets.

So I'd be confident about the next couple of weeks; things might get tricky if those €150M don't last the full three months.

  • Today's radio report also suggested that in the worst case scenario, AB customers would be rebooked to different airlines. – Robus Aug 16 '17 at 6:00
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    @Robus There are potentially two problems with that: 1. Who will pay for that and 2. are there sufficient capacities with other airlines. Also I guess they will make a difference between people who are on the far end of their trip and need to get home and those who did not yet leave. – TorstenS Aug 16 '17 at 6:49
  • @TorstenS I'm just relaying what I heard on my morning commute, personally I'd ditch the AB ticket and buy one with a different airline if I needed to attend anything important ;-) – Robus Aug 16 '17 at 9:50
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This does not quite answer the question, but hopefully is helpful enough to warrant posting.

Assuming you become confident the flights will not be honored (probably due to the an announcement by the company, or after the flight date).

If you paid for goods and services, and did not receive said goods or services, you can request a chargeback with the bank you used to pay (assuming you didn't pay in cash I guess). BPay may also result in you being unable to process a chargeback.

For more detail about cahrgebacks, check this link, or better still, contact the bank you paid with.

Note that companies that have gone bankrupt are still valid targets of a chargeback. Depending on the severity of the situation, a chargeback may be unsuccesful if they have no money available.

Disclaimer, I am not a banker or a lawyer or familiar with chargebacks or flights in Germany. Talk to your bank.

  • Bad idea. The liquidator will claim back the money (to which the bankrupt company is entitled). In the end, all you did is incur additional costs. – chirlu Aug 17 '17 at 17:33
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Not sure what you could do at this point, other than rely on what the company has said...

However, in the future, it's a great idea to buy travel insurance for your trips. This would at least cover some of the expenses, should something untoward happen on your trip. And, I'm sure, the airline going bankrupt and not flying would be covered...(or at least you might be able to claim any delta's in costs)

E.g. We went on a cruise vacation with non-refundable Iceland Air tickets -- on the way home, Iceland Air decided that they were going to have a 1 day mechanics strike so we were 'stuck' in Iceland for that day...we were automatically rebooked for the next day (well, after stopping by an airline counter)...however, due to the insurance, we got back most of the money we incurred by spending another night in the hotel.

1

Well, just as I assumed, Air Berlin have cancelled most of their North American routes effective October 1st, which means that my flight back is not going to be operated by Air Berlin.

I already called my credit card company, and they promised that I'll be issued a refund if the flight didn't operate. However, they said I'd probably have to wait until the flight itself to claim this (unless I get a written statement). My insurance does not cover cancellations in cases of airlines' financial troubles.

Does anyone have any information about the eminent Lufthansa takeover? Do you think they will honor the flight back (United has a direct ORD-MUC flight)? And in case they didn't, under European Flight Cancellations regulations, would I be able to receive compensation if the flight is cancelled under two weeks before its time?

  • If the airline is bankrupt then it is unlikely to be able to pay out EC 261/2004 compensation even if it is legally required to do so. – Calchas Aug 30 '17 at 11:28
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In a case where AB is unable to provide the service before the operational cover runs out (estimate is three months but honestly this is unrealistic), you will be honoured the flight on another (most probably EW) operated flight (that will take over the route).

Worst case you get your money back after the bundled slot that affect your flight is taken over and AB no longer operate.

  • 1
    Can you back this up with references? Given the other part of your original answer (which I edited out), I'm suspicious that these are guesses/opinions too. – Jan Doggen Aug 17 '17 at 14:22
  • well, you deleted hard facts...not sure I understand why? – Destarksy Aug 28 '17 at 23:38
  • and yes, in fact I can... not publicly though. – Destarksy Aug 28 '17 at 23:39

protected by JonathanReez Aug 30 '17 at 11:48

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