The Financial Times Deutschland reported on Friday that Air France was working on an agreement with Air Berlin's largest shareholder, Arabic airline Etihad.
Air France-KLM CEO Jean-Cyril Spinetta told the paper that while Air Berlin had not yet approached his firm, Air France-KLM “would definitely be open” to such cooperation with Germany's second biggest airline. According to the FTD, Air Berlin insiders have been seeking to close a so-called “code-sharing” deal with Air France.
Code-sharing means that a seat can be bought from one airline for a flight operated by a partner airline. In this case, it would allow Air Berlin to operate flights directly to regional French airports like Marseilles, rather than through a major hub like Paris.
This means that both Air France and Air Berlin would be able to offer more European flights, including 'smaller' routes like Toulouse-Düsseldorf, currently dominated by budget airlines.
The agreement would represent a double attack on Lufthansa, since it would also include code-sharing agreements with Etihad, a Dubai-based airline that operates several routes in the Middle East, and has a 29-percent stake in Air Berlin.
In exchange for allowing Etihad to develop its European business, Air France would be able to profit from the Arab carrier. Spinetta said he was already in talks with Etihad to run code-sharing flights between Paris, Amsterdam and Abu Dhabi.