Air France-KLM and Delta Air Lines have reportedly hired Goldman Sachs Group to assist them in a possible joint bid for Virgin Atlantic Airways Ltd (The Telegraph, 21-Feb-2011). Sir Richard Branson, who owns a 51% stake in Virgin Atlantic, has reportedly appointed Deutsche Bank AG to study future business options. There have also been reports that Etihad Airways may have written to Deutsche Bank expressing interest in a bid, and have hired Bank of America-Merrill Lynch as advisers.
Etihad expresses interest in Virgin Atlantic: reports
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Air France-KLM: long haul low cost airline could be part of new CEO's vision as French Blue enters
Air France-KLM chairman and CEO, Jean-Marc Janaillac, who took charge in Jul-2016, has talked about the possibility of launching long haul low cost operations (Bloomberg/luchtvaartnieuws.nl, 20-Sep-2016).
If Air France-KLM were to enter this segment it would be the second of Europe's big three legacy airline groups to do so, after the Lufthansa Group. Ironically, there is no long haul low cost competition to Lufthansa in Germany. By contrast, IAG faces more such competitors in the UK than either of its two major rival groups in their largest home market, but currently has no plan for such an operator.
Air France-KLM management told analysts on a conference call in May-2016 that it was sceptical about the sustainability of year-round profits for long haul low cost. However, new competition has prompted Mr Janaillac to look more closely at this market segment. Since Jul-2016 Norwegian has commenced trans-Atlantic long haul operations from Paris CDG. In addition, since Sep-2016, the new-start long haul LCC French Blue now flies on routes to the Caribbean. Mr Janaillac is expected to report on his strategic vision for Air France-KLM in early Nov-2016. Labour relations will be crucial to the group's development – not least in the area of long haul low cost.
Airberlin: airline's latest, more radical, restructuring gets help from TUIFly and Lufthansa
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.