Lufthansa eyes up 78 Air Berlin planes, hinting more is to come

The chief of Germany's largest airline Lufthansa has said he hopes to buy up to 78 planes from bankrupt Air Berlin, dismissing fears the insolvency would grant him a near-monopoly over the skies.

Lufthansa eyes up 78 Air Berlin planes, hinting more is to come
Photo: DPA

Top priority was “stabilising” the status of some 38 aircraft Lufthansa already “wet-leases” – including their crews – from the smaller firm, Lufthansa chief Carsten Spohr told journalists in Frankfurt on Wednesday evening.

“Wet-leasing” refers to airlines leasing aircraft from each other rather than a leasing company.

On top of that, “we want to grow by 20 to 40 more planes” for low-cost subsidiary Eurowings, either by “organic” growth or through acquisitions from Air Berlin, he said.

The airline believes that would be the maximum number competition authorities are prepared to accept.

“We expect Air Berlin to exit the market” rather than be revived whole as hoped for by some interested investors, Spohr added.

Germany's second largest carrier, Air Berlin declared bankruptcy in August after major shareholder Etihad Airways cut off a cash lifeline, and has been kept flying by an emergency loan from the German government.

After bidding closed last week, Air Berlin creditors are set to meet Thursday to discuss the offers, while the board will make its final decision on the company's future on September 25.

Spohr dismissed arguments from competitors, including pugnacious Ryanair chief executive Michael O'Leary, that allowing Lufthansa to gobble up parts of its competitor would create an all-conquering “monster” in the German market.

Even if Lufthansa were to buy all of Air Berlin, “that's still less than what one airline has in Ireland. So much for the idea of a 'monster',” he said in a swipe at the Ryanair boss.

“We're confident that our plan will get regulatory approval” from competition authorities in Brussels and Berlin, he added.

Looking to the future of the European airline industry, “one of the most fragmented sectors you can imagine”, Spohr expects Lufthansa to play “an active role” in an expected wave of consolidation.

“Air Berlin will not be the last step,” he said.


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