An important day in the row about insolvent carrier Air Berlin’s assets as them and Lufthansa signed a contract today which will see the lion share of the company taken over by the German flag carrier.
Lufthansa will take over 81 aircraft and 3000 staff (roughly a third) from the defunct carrier just 2 weeks before the lights finally go out for Air Berlin after filing for Insolvency Mid August.
With the signing ceremony taking place today a month long row comes to an end that saw investors from all sides circle the Air Berlin insolvency process like vultures hoping to get a piece of some coveted assets, especially the valuated slots at Germany’s busiest airports.
The Handelsblatt (access here – in German) reported that the signing took place this morning and that Lufthansa will pay 210 Million Euro for their share while another deal with Easyjet is still pending as is the entire takeover process which has still to be sanctioned by EU Regulators.
The 210 Million Euro won’t be used to pay back the approximately 100,000 tickets which have lost it’s value since the insolvency or to compensate members of the pretty much defunct and useless frequent flyer program Topbonus but rather to pay back the 150 Million Euro emergency loan provided by the German government to keep Air Berlin afloat since August when the carrier filed for insolvency in a Berlin court.
Easyjet is eyeing 20-30 aircraft and possibly some crew as well which has to look out for new jobs in the meanwhile. Lufthansa has started a slimmed down recruitment process for pilots and similar recruiting measures for cabin crew which the carrier seeks to implement into their Eurowings low cost carrier fleet.
Air Berlin pilots have called in sick en masse, causing large scale cancellations early September as they were unhappy with the situation and information flow during the insolvency process and to protest Lufthansa’s plans to hire them under unfavorable terms for their Eurowings fleet. Meanwhile other carriers such as Qatar Airways also held recruiting events in Berlin in an attempt to scalp Air Berlin pilots from the market and I guess whoever isn’t happy to work for Germanwings can always move to the Middle East.
This Air Berlin insolvency has been a giant mess with very few profiteers (mainly Lufthansa in this case) and many losers which mostly include the line employees of Air Berlin as well as the consumers who got shafted and likely won’t see their money again for tickets lost in the process.
Air Berlin has always shamelessly kept advertising ticket sales no matter how dire their financial situation was and people (for whatever reason – mainly denial) kept booking them. The frequent flyer program Topbonus shut down step by step with little to no official advance notice, except that common sense should have told people to stop crediting miles there a long time ago and to burn up existing balances. I feel main sorry for those regular holidaymakers who booked standalone flights without any sort of protection such as a travel insurance or credit card product coverage and of course the employees who don’t have the luxury of pilots that are very well sought after in the market.