airberlin CEO Joachim Hunold announced (09-Mar-2011) the International Tourism Bourse (ITB) in Berlin that the airline is "preparing itself intensively" for oneworld membership in 2012, by expanding bilateral cooperation agreements with partner airlines through codeshare agreements, reciprocal frequent flyer benefits and improved access to airport lounges. Mr Hunold said the airline's main focus for 2011 is to strengthen its hubs at Berlin Tegel and Dusseldorf and is expanding its network in Italy. The airline will launch Berlin Tegel-New York service in 2011, Berlin-Rome Fiumicino service will increase to 14 times weekly, new services will be launched to Verona from Tegel and Dusseldorf from Apr-2011, and new services Dusseldorf-Bari and from Cologne/Bonn, Nuremberg, Munich and Zurich to Brindisi. The airline's Palma de Mallorca hub is being expanded with new services to Vienna and Friedrichshafen. [more]
airberlin expands network ahead of oneworld membership
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Airberlin's operations are to be split into three. First, there will be a core network airline with hubs in Berlin and Duesseldorf, deploying approximately half the current Air Berlin Group fleet. Second, there are plans for a new leisure airline, combining part of airberlin's fleet with TUIFly. Third, a significant part of airberlin's fleet will be wet-leased to the Lufthansa Group.
As a result of these moves the operating fleet of the core airberlin network airline will slip from second to third in Germany and risks becoming subscale. Eurowings will rise from third to second, and the expanded new TUIFly will go from fifth to fourth (overtaking Thomas Cook Group's Condor).
For several years airberlin has been unable to break the cycle of losses and successive restructuring initiatives, in spite of repeated bailouts from airberlin's 29% shareholder Etihad. A number of details are still to be clarified. These include the detailed route networks for the different operators, the network airline's strategy for feed, and the balance of charter versus scheduled flights in the new leisure airline. However, for now and with help from competitors and Etihad, airberlin looks to have ensured at least some kind of future.
Lufthansa to complete takeover of Brussels Airlines for possible integration into Eurowings
Lufthansa's supervisory board has approved the exercise of its call option to buy the remaining 55% of SN Airholding, the parent company of Brussels Airlines. Lufthansa acquired 45% of the company in 2009 and negotiated the option to buy the balance of the shares for no more than EUR250 million. The deal is expected to close in early 2017, once the details of the purchase have been agreed with the other SN Airholding shareholders.
Lufthansa and Brussels Airlines have an extensive codeshare agreement and are partners in the Star Alliance. Their existing relationship is such that Brussels Airlines already feels like a member of the Lufthansa Group. The main draw for Lufthansa has always been its Belgian partner's extensive African network (it is the number two airline on Western Europe-Central/Western Africa).
However, it now seems that Lufthansa will, at least partly, integrate Brussels Airlines into its Eurowings low cost brand. Lufthansa is keen to accelerate Eurowings' expansion through partners (and is also to wet-lease up to 35 aircraft from airberlin). Brussels Airlines' fleet and single-class configuration on short/medium haul should fit with Eurowings, but its unit cost and network airline business model are not characteristic of an LCC.