Fri, Oct 13, 2017 - Page 10 News List

Lufthansa to buy lion’s share of Air Berlin’s airplanes

AFP, BERLIN

Germany’s biggest airline, Deutsche Lufthansa AG, is to buy up more than half of the aircraft of its bankrupt competitor Air Berlin PLC, chief executive Carsten Spohr said on Thursday.

On a “great day” for the Frankfurt-based carrier, it was to sign a contract to buy 81 of Air Berlin’s 144 planes and took on 3,000 of its 8,500 staff at noon yesterday, Spohr said — the last day for bidders Lufthansa and Easyjet to close their hoped-for deals.

There has been no sign of an agreement between Air Berlin and Easyjet PLC for remaining parts of the business, nor has Lufthansa announced how much it is to pay.

German media have reported in recent weeks that the yellow-and-blue-liveried carrier could pay as much as 300 million euros (US$356 million) for about 80 planes — a figure Spohr cited as the largest that competition authorities would accept Lufthansa grabbing.

The agreement still needs a green light from European authorities in a process that could take “several weeks or months,” Air Berlin chief executive Thomas Winkelmann said last week.

Meanwhile, unions have complained that many of Air Berlin’s staff face an uncertain future, with no guarantee that they would find work with the buyer firms once the company is wound up — despite promises when talks with Lufthansa and Easyjet began that most would find jobs with the bidders.

Air Berlin triggered bankruptcy proceedings in August after losing a cash lifeline from its biggest shareholder Etihad Airways.

Its aircraft have been kept aloft by an emergency loan of 150 million euros from the German government while details of the breakup were worked out.

However, the pressure was on to reach a deal this week, as Air Berlin’s planes would no longer be allowed to fly after Oct. 28 under insolvency rules.

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