Air Berlin, Germany’s second-largest airline, filed for bankruptcy protection on Tuesday after shareholder Etihad Airways withdrew funding following years of losses.
German Transport Minister Alexander Dobrindt has backed Lufthansa to buy a major portion of Air Berlin’s assets, saying Germany needed a “national champion” in international aviation. Berlin has granted a bridging loan of €150m that will keep Air Berlin’s planes in the air for up to three months, securing 7,200 jobs in Germany while buyers for its assets are found.
Air Berlin’s demise offers Lufthansa and rivals a chance to acquire slots at airports such as Berlin Tegel and Duesseldorf, with Germany’s largest airline keen to defend its domestic position against low-cost rival Ryanair.
According to sources, one scenario Lufthansa’s chief executive Carsten Spohr has presented to the flagship carrier’s supervisory board is that it could take on as many as 90 of Air Berlin’s roughly 140 planes. Air Berlin has said it is in talks with three aviation firms and aims to strike deals with at least two of them by the end of September.
German media has cited government sources as saying that Lufthansa, its budget carrier Eurowings, and Thomas Cook’s German airline Condor would likely snap up Air Berlin’s most valuable landing slots.
Sources suggest a few slots could also go to Ryanair, which has filed a complaint with German and EU competition authorities over the insolvency process, which it describes as a “conspiracy”.