Air Berlin, which has around 8,000 employees, filed for insolvency in August after major shareholder Etihad said it would stop providing funding.
The German government stepped in with a €150m loan, due to last until the end of October, to prevent the airline being grounded so that talks could be held on selling its assets.
Lufthansa has bid for units including leisure airline Niki and regional carrier LGW plus around 13 A320 jets, while EasyJet has bid for 27-30 planes, Air Berlin administrator Frank Kebekus said yesterday.
Talks will run until October 12.
Those two bids, beating out rivals such as British Airways parent IAG, Thomas Cook, and other investors, offered the best prospects financially and in terms of securing jobs for Air Berlin’s 8,000 staff, he said.
Lufthansa has said it will need 3,000 new employees to grow as a result of the gap left by the Air Berlin insolvency.
Its budget unit Eurowings yesterday extended a recruitment drive, saying it now had over 1,000 open positions, including for 300 pilots, 500 cabin crew and more than 200 ground staff jobs.
EasyJet’s offer also involves crews and slots associated with the 27-30 planes, including a large share of Air Berlin’s slots and crews at Berlin Tegel airport, Air Berlin CEO Thomas Winkelmann said.
A source has said Lufthansa’s bid is for around €200m plus a further €100m to meet operating costs during a transition phase.
Air Berlin said the bidders had put forward proposals on financing the winter flight plan from the end of October. It hopes the EU will approve the carve-up by the end of the year.
Lufthansa shares hit €23.485 yesterday, their highest level since early 2001, on hopes it would pick up some of Air Berlin’s most attractive assets and strengthen its position in Germany.
Speaking as union Verdi staged a demonstration outside, blowing whistles and waving placards, Mr Winkelmann said Air Berlin was “fighting for every job.”
Administrator Frank Kebekus said flight operations had to be kept stable to bring talks to a successful conclusion, repeating comments made after the airline’s operations were hit by a wave of sickness-related absences among pilots this month.