German airline Air Berlin is to join the oneworld Alliance, adding Europe’s fifth-largest airline and Germany’s second-biggest carrier to the 13-member alliance.
Air Berlin group member Niki (based in Austria) will become an affiliate member of oneworld.
A memorandum of understanding between Air Berlin and oneworld was completed in the airline’s Berlin home city on July 26, with a formal alliance membership agreement to be signed soon.
Air Berlin is expected to start flying as part of oneworld in early 2012 – weeks before the opening of the new Berlin Brandenburg International Airport, which is being built as a major new hub airport.
In 2009 Air Berlin served 160 destinations in some 40 countries, operating almost 600 daily departures. It carried 28 million passengers, generating revenues of €3.2 billion ($4.5 billion). As of July 2010, Air Berlin operates a fleet of 165 aircraft, including Austria’s Niki, serving 168 destinations.
When it becomes part of oneworld, Air Berlin will add almost 75 gateways to the oneworld map, expand the alliance’s coverage to almost 900 destinations in nearly 150 countries, served by a combined fleet of 2,500 aircraft operating some 9,500 flights a day and carrying 340 million passengers a year.
Members of Air Berlin’s topbonus frequent flyer program will be able to earn and redeem rewards on any of oneworld’s 13 other carriers, with top-tier members able to use any of the group’s 550-plus airport lounges, and its network will be covered by oneworld’s full range of alliance fares.
Frequent-flyer cardholders of oneworld’s established airlines will be able to earn and redeem rewards when flying Air Berlin.
As a starting point in its oneworld implementation, Air Berlin will develop one-on-one co-operative agreements with established members American Airlines and Finnair, to take effect this coming winter season. Bilateral agreements with British Airways and Iberia are planned to follow.
British Airways will support Air Berlin through its oneworld implementation programme as its alliance sponsor.
All but one of the alliance’s existing carriers (with Mexicana the exception) already serve Germany, the most populous country and biggest economy in the European Union. They will also be looking to expand their own services to its key hubs Berlin and Dusseldorf as the new alliance recruit prepares to join the group.
“Joining a global alliance is the logical next step in Air Berlin’s development. We are very pleased and proud to be lining up to join what is clearly the world’s top quality airline grouping,” says Joachim Hunold, Air Berlin’s chief executive. “Becoming part of oneworld would be one of the most significant departures so far for our airline, enabling us to offer our customers a truly global network served by partners who include some of the best and biggest airlines in the world. We look forward to completing all joining requirements as soon as possible.”
Willie Walsh, chief executive of British Airways, oneworld’s sponsor of Air Berlin, says: “Air Berlin will make an ideal oneworld partner. It has an excellent reputation for customer service – right in line with oneworld’s focus on quality above quantity in terms of membership. Its network is one of the best in Central Europe, expanding the alliance’s coverage of this region markedly. British Airways is delighted to be supporting Air Berlin’s addition to oneworld by acting as its sponsor into the alliance – and we look forward to establishing our bilateral co-operation.”
American Airlines’ Chairman and Chief Executive, and oneworld Governing Board Chairman, Gerard Arpey adds: “Oneworld already features four of Europe’s best airlines. Adding the continent’s fifth-biggest carrier will greatly enhance our coverage throughout this region. With all the other significant steps we are taking in this breakthrough year for our alliance, this represents a great leap forward in our journey to establish oneworld firmly as the world’s premier airline alliance with members unmatched in brand and service quality.”