Airberlin filed for insolvency a couple of weeks ago after Etihad withdrew financial support, and now they’re continuing to operate with an emergency loan of 150 million Euros. They’re burning through that cash pretty quickly, and it’s clear that they don’t have a future as an independent airline.
This morning we learned that airberlin plans to cut most of their longhaul routes out of Berlin in the next month or so, as they’re canceling flights to Abu Dhabi, Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, and San Francisco. For the time being they’ll continue to operate some longhaul flights out of Dusseldorf (which is their biggest hub), though I imagine their days are numbered out of there as well.
The way things are set up right now, bidders are able to submit offers for airberlin’s assets (mostly planes and airport slots) through mid-September. Apparently there’s interest in various parts of airberlin’s operations from Lufthansa, Thomas Cook, EasyJet, Ryanair, etc.
Reuters is reporting that Lufthansa allegedly wants to take over about a dozen of airberlin’s longhaul aircraft, and continue to operate some of their longhaul flights out of Berlin, including to New York. According to the story:
Lufthansa, which currently does not offer long-haul flights from Berlin, is especially interested in the carrier’s routes to U.S. cities including New York, the source said on Tuesday.
Lufthansa, which has the German government’s backing to take over major parts of Air Berlin, could acquire as many as 90 of its planes, including 38 aircraft it is already leasing from the airline and its leisure unit Niki, another source told Reuters this month.
Such a deal, seen valued in the low hundreds of millions of euros, could see up to 3,000 of Air Berlin’s workers move to Lufthansa, the person familiar with the matter said on Tuesday.
As mentioned above, keep in mind that Lufthansa is already leasing a few dozen planes from airberlin. You don’t often see a country’s largest airline wanting so desperately to help out a country’s second largest airline, though the power play is quite obvious here. Lufthansa wants to keep EasyJet and Ryanair out of Germany as much as possible, as that poses the biggest threat to their shorthaul routes. So this was a case of “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.”
It would be great to see Lufthansa take over airberlin’s longhaul routes, especially since it would mean that several thousand airberlin workers would be employed. My guess is that if Lufthansa actually starts longhaul flights out of Berlin, it would be part of their Eurowings division, which is their low cost carrier. That seems like the best fit for a market like Berlin, which has a lot of demand, but also isn’t an especially high yield market.
For now this is still very much developing, though by mid-September we should have a better sense of the fate of airberlin’s fleet and routes.