Air Berlin to sell frequent-flyer scheme to aid turnaround

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Germany's Air Berlin is to divest its frequent-flyer programme as part of its strategic turnaround programme, as the carrier discloses an improvement in third-quarter profits.

Air Berlin is to migrate the programme, TopBonus, to a "new entity", it says, and intends to sell the majority to a partner.

"As an independent company focusing on this line of business, and having a clear expansion goal, TopBonus will be able to reach its full potential," says the carrier's chief, Hartmut Mehdorn.

Chief financial officer Ulf Huttmeyer adds that the transaction will conclude in the fourth quarter and contribute to a "significant improvement" in the airline's earnings.

Air Berlin posted a third-quarter operating profit of €101 million ($129 million), up 4.5%, while its net profit for the period more than doubled to €67 million.

It credits the partnership with new shareholder Etihad Airways for generating €50 million in revenues over the year to date - higher than its original estimates - as well as "significant" cost savings.

But Mehdorn says the "journey is not complete" and that the carrier is to implement a further cost-saving effort, named Turbine 2013, to maintain its profitability targets.

"With Turbine 2013 we concentrate fully on our core competences," he says. "Only in this manner will we be able to further improve our operating performance in this negative environment and to sustainably be in the black from next year onwards."