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LUFTHANSA

Insolvent Air Berlin says it’s in talks with three potential buyers

Air Berlin is in talks with three competitors about buying up its assets, the insolvent airline's boss said on Thursday, warning that not all jobs would be saved.

Insolvent Air Berlin says it's in talks with three potential buyers
Photo: DPA

“Aside from Lufthansa, we are in contact with two other interested parties from the aviation industry,” Air Berlin chief executive Thomas Winkelmann told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper.

The negotiations have been going on for weeks, he said, and all three airlines were financially sound and large enough “to offer Air Berlin a secure future” while keeping Germany as an operations hub.

He did not name the other two airlines, but EasyJet has long been eyeing Air Berlin and German media have speculated that Thomas Cook subsidiary Condor is the third party.

Contacted by AFP, Condor said it stood ready to play “an active role” in the restructuring of Air Berlin. EasyJet declined to comment.

READ MORE: Five things you need to know after the Air Berlin insolvency 

Air Berlin filed for insolvency on Tuesday after main shareholder Etihad Airways suddenly pulled the plug on years of financial support for the loss-making airline.

In a controversial move, the government stepped in with a €150 bridging loan to keep Germany's second-largest airline flying for the next three months, saying it did not want to leave holidaymakers stranded.

German flagship carrier Lufthansa is aiming to take over 90 of Air Berlin's 140 planes and operate them under its low-cost Eurowings brand, the Süddeutsche Zeitung reported, citing sources close to the talks.

The number includes the 38 aircraft Lufthansa is already leasing from Air Berlin, as well as the roughly 20 planes operated by Austrian subsidiary Niki, the newspaper said, adding that a deal could be sealed “in coming weeks”.

Speaking to the Frankfurter Allgemeine, Winkelmann said he aimed to reach agreements with at least two of the interested buyers in September, with Air Berlin's landing rights considered particularly valuable.

“But we won't be able to save all jobs,” the paper quoted Winkelmann as saying.

The airline, sometimes dubbed the “Mallorca shuttle” for its popularity with German tourists headed for Spanish beaches, employs some 8,000 people.

It has long battled for survival, booking losses amounting to €1.2 billion over the past two years and relying on cash infusions from Abu-Dhabi-based Etihad.

An Air Berlin spokesman told AFP the company could not immediately say when it would announce its first-half results, originally scheduled to be released on Friday.

'Conspiracy' 

But the government's intervention, just weeks before a September 24th general election, to keep Air Berlin flying for now has come in for criticism.

Low-cost rival Ryanair has lodged complaints with German and European competition regulators, slamming what it called a “conspiracy” between the government, Lufthansa and Air Berlin to carve up the insolvent carrier's assets.

Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel defended the move, saying the financial lifeline was needed to prevent 80,000 travellers a day from being stranded during the busy holiday period.

But a government official told the Handelsblatt financial daily the state aid was a clear example of electioneering.

“Eighty thousand stranded holidaymakers are almost 80,000 voters. That's how simple the political calculation is,” the unnamed source said.

READ ALSO: Air Berlin files for insolvency after months of disruptions

MALLORCA

Lufthansa fires up ‘jumbo jet’ for surge in German tourists bound for Mallorca

German airline Lufthansa said Friday it was taking "extraordinary measures" to meet surging bookings for the Spanish holiday island of Mallorca, deploying a jumbo jet to ferry passengers from Frankfurt.

Lufthansa fires up 'jumbo jet' for surge in German tourists bound for Mallorca
Tourists enjoy the first days of summer on the island of Mallorca. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/AP | Francisco Ubilla

The group said it had seen a jump in reservations from German sunseekers in recent weeks, as concerns about the pandemic ease thanks to falling infection numbers and vaccination progress across Europe.

To meet demand, Lufthansa said it would swap the 215-seat Airbus A321 that usually plies the Frankfurt-Mallorca route for its Boeing 747-8 “jumbo jet”.The 747, also known as the “Queen of the Skies”, can carry 364 people and is the largest plane in Lufthansa’s fleet.

The super-large planes normally fly transatlantic routes but have been
mostly grounded since the pandemic upended air travel.

READ ALSO: ‘I really needed a break’: Pandemic-weary Germans find freedom on Mallorca

“Lufthansa is taking extraordinary measures in order to respond to a significant increase in booking demand for flights to Palma de Mallorca,” the airline said in a statement.

The jumbo jet will be used for four weekends over July and August, it added, Europe’s key summer travel season.

Mallorca is one of the most popular tourist destinations for Germans and is sometimes affectionately referred to as Germany’s “17th state”.

Before the pandemic, around five million German tourists visited the island
each year.

READ ALSO: ‘Germans are coming back’: Spaniards sceptical over return of tourists

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