Passengers board an Air Berlin aircraft at Tegel airport in Berlin, Germany, June 14, 2017. REUTERS
Passengers board an Air Berlin aircraft at Tegel airport in Berlin, Germany, June 14, 2017. REUTERS

Berlin/Frankfurt — Thomas Cook’s German leisure airline Condor and Lufthansa are interested in taking on a number of aircraft from insolvent Air Berlin, sources familiar with the negotiations said on Thursday.

Air Berlin, Germany’s second largest carrier, filed for insolvency last week after major shareholder Etihad pulled the plug on funding.

The race is on for interested parties to agree on a deal for parts of its business, including aircraft and crew, which would bring access to take-off and landing slots at airports such as Duesseldorf, Berlin Tegel, Munich and Hamburg.

Condor was "in the process of preparing a concrete offer", one source said, adding Condor was interested in mainly short-haul routes, and also some long-haul ones.

Lufthansa, which was first to talk with Air Berlin, on Wednesday said it had presented a term-sheet to the insolvent carrier, setting out its interest in taking over parts of the Air Berlin group.

The German flagship carrier’s proposal for the carve-up of Air Berlin would see it taking over the insolvent carrier’s leisure airline unit Niki and other aircraft for a sum in the low hundreds of millions of euros, another source said.

Those aircraft, up to 90, would include 38 crewed aircraft Lufthansa already leases from Air Berlin.

The source further said a likely deal could be 80 jets for Lufthansa, 24 for Condor and 40 for easyJet.

Air Berlin’s aircraft are being kept in the air thanks to a €150m government loan. But if the money runs out and Air Berlin is grounded, the airport slots go into a pool where they will be divided up among airlines.

Thomas Cook repeated an earlier statement that it stood ready to play an "active role".

Its interest in a "double-digit" number of aircraft was first reported by Sueddeutsche Zeitung.

EasyJet’s interest in up to 40 aircraft, with slots in Berlin and Hamburg, was reported by Handelsblatt. The British budget carrier declined to comment.

Ryanair has said it would be interested in a bid for the whole of Air Berlin, as has German aviation investor Hans Rudolf Woehrl, who said he had been invited to talks with Air Berlin next week.

Meanwhile, Lufthansa’s budget unit Eurowings seemed to be making an early attempt to attract any Air Berlin staff keen to find a new job while negotiations are still ongoing.

Eurowings on Wednesday announced a recruitment drive, saying it was seeking about 200 pilots and 400 cabin crew qualified to fly and crew A320 jets. It did not specifically mention Air Berlin in the announcement on its website.

Reuters

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