Germany’s biggest airline Lufthansa will buy more than half of the aircraft of its bankrupt competitor Air Berlin, chief executive Carsten Spohr said on Thursday.
The Frankfurt-based carrier will sign a contract to buy 81 of Air Berlin’s 144 planes and take on 3,000 of its 8,500 staff on Thursday – the last day for bidders Lufthansa and Easyjet to close their deals. So far, there has been no sign of an agreement between Air Berlin and Easyjet for remaining parts of the business, nor has Lufthansa announced how much it will pay under the deal.
German media had reported the yellow-and-blue-liveried carrier could pay as much as 300 million euros ($356 million) for around 80 planes – a figure Spohr cited as the largest competition authorities would accept. However, Air Berlin chief executive Thomas Winkelmann said last week the agreement would need a green light from European authorities in a process that might take “several weeks or months”.
Meanwhile, unions have complained that many of Air Berlin’s staff faced an uncertain future 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 a 150-million-euro ($178 million) emergency loan from the German government. But the pressure was on to reach a deal this week, as Air Berlin’s planes will no longer be allowed to fly after October 28 under insolvency rules.