Insolvent German airline Air Berlin hopes to secure the jobs of most of its employees as a result of ongoing negotiations and expected sales of its assets to competitors Lufthansa and easyJet.
The majority of Air Berlin's assets are likely to be sold to German aviation giant Lufthansa and British low-cost flyer easyJet, with the insolvent airline's supervisory board announcing on Monday afternoon that they are now negotiating exclusively with those two airlines after considering a raft of other offers.
Negotiations for the sale of Air Berlin's assets, thought to include some 140 leased aircraft as well as several sought-after landing and takeoff slots at German airports, have yet to conclude and will continue until October 12. By then, the company hopes to have settled the details of the break-up of its assets.
Air Berlin CEO Thomas Winkelmann said at a press conference on Monday that the bids had increased the likelihood of jobs being saved at the airline. "We are on the way to giving around 80 percent of our colleagues a good chance of new jobs with the bidders," he said.
He was also optimistic about the prospects of the airline paying back the €150 million ($178 million) bridging loan given to it last month by the German government to help it keep its planes in the air.
Earlier on Monday, Willie Walsh, CEO of British Airways' parent company IAG, said his group had put a bid in for part of Air Berlin's assets but he already expected them to mainly go to Lufthansa, the largest German airline and one of the biggest in the world. Lufthansa's bid is thought to be worth between €200-300 million ($238-356 million).
Air Berlin, which employs close to 8,000 people, filed for bankruptcy in August after its funding was cut off by Etihad, one of its major shareholders. The carrier, which was founded in 1979, said on Monday that Lufthansa's bid was centered on Niki - Air Berlin's low-cost leisure airline - regional carrier LGW and a limited number of A320 aircraft, while easyJet's interest was primarily in the troubled airline's A320 fleet.
Air Berlin says it intends to continue its short-haul flight operations for the foreseeable future, although it announced on Monday that it was ending long-haul flights from October 15, as lessors had called back their aircraft.
aos/sri (Air Berlin, Reuters)