If sources at insolvent European airline, airberlin are to be believed, Lufthansa is leading the race to acquire large chunks of the debt-ridden low-cost carrier. The good news is that this development could be a lifeline for the 8,000 serving employees at airberlin, including many cabin crew.
The news first broke last night with the news agency, Reuters citing two sources who claimed to be familiar with the matter. In a separate development, airberlin confirmed that talks were in the final stage, saying in a statement: “Authority was granted to conclude one or more agreements with one or more of these bidders.”
airberlin refused to name which airlines would continue talks with its German creditors but it’s believed that only Lufthansa and British low-cost airline, easyJet remain in contention. So what will this mean for current employees at airberlin?
On Wednesday, Carsten Spohr, the chief executive of Lufthansa revealed some more details about his airline’s bid for airberlin. Speaking at a press event, Spohr said he was focused on securing 38 airberlin aircraft and their crew which Lufthansa, through its subsidiary Eurowings, already wet leases from the airline.
Lufthansa Group airlines could grow by up to 3,000 employees in the next year
If Lufthansa is successful that will potentially save hundreds of cabin crew and flight crew jobs immediately. Spohr also spoke of his airline group’s plan for a wider expansion with the possibility of up to 3,000 new jobs coming online in the next 12-months to meet its ambitious growth target.
And things are now looking, even more, promising with Eurowings management and union bosses coming to an agreement over the hiring of new staff. In the last couple of weeks, leaders at German mega-union Ver.di said they had changed their approach to reaching a deal in an attempt to specifically save airberlin staffers from unemployment.
Both the Ver.di union and Independent Flight Attendant Organisation (UFO union) who represent cabin crew at airberlin and Eurowings have accepted that some staff may now be paid less. Nonetheless, Eurowings offered a series of concessions which sweetened the deal and made a positive vote from members possible.
Eurowings promises to offer new staff “fair and competitive pay”
“We are delighted with this conclusion – with the backing of both unions we have established all the requirements for hiring new cabin crew staff at short notice,” Benedikt Schneider, head of Eurowings HR said on Wednesday. He continued: “Eurowings can continue on its course as Europe’s fastest growing airline.”
“We will offer fair and competitive pay conditions.”
Eurowings has recently started a massive recruitment campaign with the possibility of up to 600 cabin crew joining the German low-cost carrier in the next few months. Positions are available in Germany and Spain. With the requirement to already possess an operators certificate for the Airbus A320 aircraft, the hiring process has been seen by many as an effective poaching of airberlin cabin crew.
Is Lufthansa poaching airberlin cabin crew and pilots?
With Lufthansa’s plans to take just a limited number of airberlin aircraft and poach the remainder of airberlin staff on new contracts, it is hoping to both prevent an industrial relations disaster and reduce the risk of competition authorities blocking the deal.
However, the future for airberlin long-haul cabin crew remains much more uncertain. Lufthansa has said it’s not interested in that part of the airberlin business – Spohr said his airline could boost long-haul capacity on its own. The other contender, easyJet is also unlikely to want to buy that part of the business either.
The future is less-certain for long-haul crew but there might be a saviour
Yet there might be a possibility that IAG, owner of British Airways and Spain’s Iberia could have an interest. Earlier this year, IAG formed a new low-cost, long-haul airline called LEVEL. The airline currently operates from Barcelona to five destinations including Buenos Aires, Los Angeles, Oakland San Francisco and Punta Cana.
LEVEL has been seen as a direct rival to fierce rival, Norwegian and senior IAG execs claim ticket sales have far exceeded expectations. Speaking in June, Willie Walsh spoke of the future for LEVEL, saying: “In 2018, LEVEL will increase its fleet to five aircraft and we are considering other European bases for the operation.”
And while Walsh has declined to name those other European bases, there’s plenty of speculation that Germany could be within his sights. IAG had shown an interest in airberlin, although sources say the airline group had been excluded from further talks. We should hopefully know more by the 25th September.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.