On Friday, after nearly 38 years of operations, airberlin flew its last scheduled flights – it’s last of which was a domestic German flight from Munich to Berlin. The low-cost carrier fell into administration in August when major shareholder, Etihad Airways suddenly withdrew funding and support for the loss-making airline.
The loss of airberlin will temporarily leave a big hole in the German aviation market. Following its collapse, the airline was able to continue operating for several months as talks between interested buyers in airberlin’s assets got underway. That was thanks to a €150 million loan, funded in part by the German government and Lufthansa.
Of airberlin’s 8,000 employees, Lufthansa intends to take on roughly 3,000. The German flag carrier announced earlier this month that it had reached a deal with airberlin’s administrators to acquire the airline’s Austrian Niki unit and regional carrier, LGW. The transaction is valued at around €210 million.
But while that deal has been agreed in principle, it still needs to be cleared by German competition authorities. airberlin’s chief executive, Thomas Winkelmann said of the deal: “We cannot breathe again until the EU-Commission finalises the transaction.” No timeframe has yet been given.
On top of that, airberlin was still involved in talks with several other airlines over the sale of its other assets. Less than a week ago, there was speculation that easyJet was about to pull out of the race as it pushed for a lower purchase price.
Now, however, easyJet has confirmed it has struck a deal with airberlin. The news broke at the 11th hour, late on Friday. Valued at around €40 million, easyJet will take on part of airberlin’s operations at Berlin Tegel airport, giving the British low-cost carrier an increased foothold in the market.
If approved by competition authorities (and there’s no reason to suspect it won’t), the sale will be complete by December. easyJet will take over airberlin’s slots at the airport and up to 25 of the bankrupt carrier’s Airbus A320 aircraft.
In a significant step to protect the employment of former airberlin staffers, easyJet has also said it will be “offering employment to Air Berlin flying crews.” Over the coming months, easyJet intends to take on 1,000 cabin crew and pilots for its new Berlin operation.
The airline has just launched a recruitment campaign to fill vacancies at its expanded Berlin base with further details available on easyJet’s official recruitment website. However, easyJet was quick to point out that unlike major competitor, Ryanair, all of its new crew would be employed under local contracts, governed by German law. Collective labour agreements will be struck with the union Ver.di.
So far easyJet hasn’t announced the routes and services it will operate from Berlin Tegel but says a reduced timetable will be operated this winter. The airline plans to ramp up its schedule for summer 2018.