British no-frills airline Easyjet is interested in taking over German carrier TUIfly, a subsidiary of tour operator TUI. Such an acquisition would enable the UK carrier to keep flying freely in the EU after Brexit.
An employee representative on TUIfly's supervisory board, Martin Locher, said Friday Easyjet was in talks to acquire the German carrier as the British airline sought ways to keep flying within the EU without any restrictions, following the UK's decision to leave the 28-member bloc.
According to AFP, Locher added TUIfly was also in discussions with "another airline in a European country outside Germany" about a possible takeover.
German business weekly "Manager Magazin" had earlier reported that Easyjet was eying TUIfly as it looked for ways to soften the potential Brexit fallout.
Easyjet CEO Carolyn McCall had ruled out any takeovers just a few months ago, but with post-Brexit uncertainty looming she "wanted to avoid a big risk for the firm with the surprising U-turn," the "Manager Magazin" said.
Easyjet became the first UK carrier to activate a contingency plan after the Brexit vote when it announced it had applied for an air operator certificate (AOC) to continue operating routes throughout the EU without any major disadvantages.
British airlines have until now been covered by the EU's Single European Sky system, which lifts trade restrictions on airlines with their headquarters inside the bloc.
The company operates a legally separate subsidiary airline in non-EU member Switzerland, for its Zurich and Geneva flights.
It's unclear, though, whether an Easyjet-TUIfly tie-up will ever come about. Only hours after Locher's statements on Friday, the head of the German carrier's supervisory board, Henrik Homann, told employees in a letter that "there is no plan whatsoever (for Easyjet) to cooperate with TUIfly or prepare a takeover deal."
hg/sgb (AFP, dpa, Reuters)