Etihad Acquires Air Berlin’s TopBonus Frequent Flyer Program

By Paul Riegler on 19 December 2012
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Air Berlin, Germany’s second largest airline, has sold a majority stake of its topbonusDSC_0147 frequent flyer loyalty program to Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways for €184.4 million ($243 million).  The two airlines formed a new entity to own the program that will tap into the rapidly expanding loyalty program sector.

The topbonus program has over 3.1 million members and Etihad Guest has 1.82 million.  Between the two, the group will have almost 300 partners.

Etihad acquired 30% of Air Berlin last December, at the same time entering into a debt-financing agreement with the airline.  The two also entered into a code-sharing agreement and initiated reciprocity on each other’s frequent flyer programs.  Air Berlin has the right to repurchase an additional 10% at a future date.

The deal is seen as the first step in the creation of a new global loyalty management company by Etihad.

“This new investment creates an excellent growth opportunity for us to capitalise on the loyalty management market, while offering a greater range of benefits to passengers from multiple partner airlines,” said James Hogan, Etihad Airways’ CEO.

“The acquisition of a stake in the new topbonus company is part of our strategic evolution to create a ‘house of brands’ loyalty management company, with global scale,” added Hogan.

In addition to its stake in Air Berlin, Etihad also owns 10% in Australian carrier Virgin Australia and has indicated it may increase its stake to 19.9% in the future. The two airlines also have a code-share agreement.

(Photo: Jonathan Spira)



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