Air Berlin

Last updated on 21 October 2017

Air Berlin PLC & Co. Luftverkehrs KG (FWBAB1), branded as airberlin or, is Germany's second-largest airline, after Lufthansa, and Europe's tenth-largest airline in terms of passengers carried.[3] It maintains hubs at Berlin Tegel Airport[4] and Düsseldorf Airport and serves 12 German cities as well as destinations in Europe.

Air Berlin is a member of the Oneworld alliance, and owns the subsidiary Belair in Switzerland while the sale of its 49% stake Austrian subsidiary NIKI to Etihad Airways was announced in December 2016.[5] It is listed on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange. Etihad Airways is the largest shareholder, having increased its shareholding to 29.21% in 2011.[6] Air Berlin is headquartered in Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf, a borough of Berlin.[7]

On 15 August 2017 Air Berlin stated it was filing for insolvency[8] and on 9 October 2017 announced that it would cease all of its own operations by 28 October 2017.

Air Berlin Logo.svg
Air Berlin Logo.svg


1978-1990: American charter airline in West Berlin

Air Berlin USA Boeing 707-300 Manteufel.jpg
Air Berlin's aircraft livery has changed several times. The original Air Berlin USA livery (pictured) was used on the airline's Boeing 707s and Boeing 737-200s...[9]
Boeing 737-222, Air Berlin JP7687422.jpg
... which was replaced with this Hapag-Lloyd Flug-hybrid livery during the early 1980s, when Air Berlin operated a single Boeing 737-200.
Air Berlin USA Boeing 737-3Y0; N67AB, July 1986 BGT (5066918954).jpg
A ruby-colored livery was introduced when the Boeing 737-300 (pictured) was put in service in 1986,...
Air Berlin Airbus A320-200 D-ABDQ DUS.jpg
... and remained largely unchanged for more than two decades (the later version is shown here on an Airbus A320-200 in 2007).
Airbus A330-200 LTU VI.jpg
After the merger with LTU in 2007 the new basic LTU scheme was adopted,...
Air Berlin Airbus A319 D-ABGF DUS.jpg
... and was used in an interim scheme until the introduction of the new logo,...
AirBerlin B737-800 D-ABBF MUC 2008-08-13.jpg
... to become the current bright red color scheme as featured on this Boeing 737-800.
Logo Air Berlin USA 1978.jpg
The Original Air Berlin USA logo

Originally registered as Air Berlin USA,[10] the company was founded in 1978 as a wholly owned subsidiary of Lelco, an American agricultural enterprise headquartered in Oregon,[10] to operate charter flights on behalf of German tour operators from Berlin Tegel Airport, mostly to Mediterranean holiday resorts.[10][11]

The co-founders of Air Berlin USA were:

Lelco was the agriculture business of Kim Lundgren's family in the United States.[12]

As a United States airline, Air Berlin was able to access the West Berlin airline market. During the Cold War, Berlin's special political status meant that the air corridors into and out of Tegel Airport could only be used by airlines registered in France, the United Kingdom or the United States. The airline's headquarters were initially at Tegel Airport. Leonard Lundgren was the first chairman.[10]

After the company was issued an airline licence and acquired two Boeing 707 jet airliners previously owned by Trans World Airlines, Air Berlin USA commenced revenue services on 28 April 1979 with a flight from Berlin-Tegel to Palma de Mallorca.[16][17] Plans were made to start long-haul flights on West Berlin-Brussels-Florida routes,[16][18] in cooperation with Air Florida (an agreement to that effect had been signed in February 1979).[19]

In 1980, the Air Berlin USA fleet grew to include the Boeing 737-200, when two aircraft of that type were leased from Air Florida.[20] In 1981, Air Berlin USA was continuing to operate scheduled transatlantic Boeing 707 service on a weekly routing of Berlin Tegel Airport - Brussels - Orlando;[21] however, by 1982, the 707s had been phased out, and during most of the 1980s, Air Berlin USA operated only a single 737-200[22] or (from 1986) a 737-300.[20][23] In 1990 and 1991, two modern Boeing 737-400s were also placed into service.[11][20][24]

1990-2000: New owners and the start of low-cost flights

German reunification led to significant changes to the Berlin aviation market, since German airlines gained access to the city. In 1991, Air Berlin (which had 90 employees at the time)[25] was bought by Joachim Hunold (de), a former sales and marketing director with LTU International, and restructured as Air Berlin GmbH & Co. Luftverkehrs KG, a German-registered company.[17][26] Following an order for ten Boeing 737-800, Air Berlin grew and by 1999, the fleet comprised twelve aircraft.[27] In 2001, Air Berlin and Hapag-Lloyd Flug became the first airlines in the world to have their Boeing 737-800s fitted with blended winglets, wingtip devices that are intended to improve fuel efficiency.[28]

Air Berlin introduced scheduled flights (which could be booked directly with the airline rather than via a tour operator) in 1997, initially linking a number of secondary German airports to Majorca.[17] By 2002, 35 percent of Air Berlin's tickets were sold directly.[29] In the same year, the route network grew to include destinations other than typical holiday resorts: Low-fare flights to London, Barcelona, Milan and Vienna started. They were marketed as City Shuttle.[17][29] Besides Berlin-Tegel, these routes were opened at six German airports (Dortmund, Düsseldorf, Hamburg, Münster/Osnabrück, Nuremberg, and Paderborn/Lippstadt)[30] that until then had not been served by one of the rising European low-cost carriers.[29] In what later would become a hallmark for Air Berlin as a "semi-low cost carrier", the airline offered complimentary meals and seat reservations.[30] This was something its competitors Buzz, Hapag-Lloyd Express, Ryanair and Virgin Express did not do.

2000-2006: Becoming Germany’s second-largest airline

In November 2001, the delivery flight of Boeing 737-800 fitted with winglets set a record: the aircraft with the registration code D-ABBC flew 8,345 kilometres non-stop from Seattle (BFI), USA to Berlin (TXL), Germany in 9 hours, 10 minutes.

In January 2004, Air Berlin announced it would cooperate with Niki, a Vienna-based airline.[17] As part of the deal, Air Berlin took a 24% stake in Niki.

Air Berlin Old Logo.png
The old Air Berlin logo used from 1986 until 2008.

In 2005, Air Berlin signed a partnership agreement with Germania. As part of the deal, Air Berlin leased some of Germania's aircraft and crew, and Germania became almost exclusively a charter airline. Plans were made for Germania to be associated with Air Berlin under a management contract. However, the contract was not signed. At the beginning of March 2008 Germania’s joint owners could not reach agreement on the takeover by Air Berlin, so Germania remained an independent airline. A joint Air Berlin/Germania subsidiary dubbed Air Zürich and planned to be based at Zurich Airport was proposed in 2005, but did not materialize.

In 2005 the Group reorganised its corporate structure. It established Air Berlin plc (registered in England) into which it reversed Air Berlin GmbH & Co. Luftverkehrs KG and subsidiaries.[31] It was suggested that the reason for the group to establish a UK-based PLC instead a German-based AG was to avoid the need to have a supervisory board and employee representation as required by the German law of Mitbestimmung or co-determination.[32]

In 2006, Air Berlin went public on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange. Originally scheduled for 5 May 2006, the IPO was postponed to 11 May 2006. The company said the delay was due to rises in fuel costs and other market pressures limiting investor demand. It reduced the initial share-price range from 15.0–17.5 euros to 11.5–14.5 euros. The stock opened at €12.0, selling a total of 42.5 million shares. Of these, 19.6 million were new shares increasing capital in the company, and the remainder to repay loans extended by the original shareholders and invested in the company earlier in 2006. After the IPO, the company claimed to have over 400 million euros in cash to fund further expansion, including aircraft purchases.[33]

In August 2006, Air Berlin acquired German domestic airline dba.[34] Flight operations at dba were continued as a fully owned subsidiary of Air Berlin until 14 November 2008, when the dba brand was discontinued due to staff strikes (dba staff were subsequently offered positions with Air Berlin).

On 28 November 2006, Air Berlin ordered 60 Boeing 737-800 aircraft,[35] and 15 smaller Boeing 737-700 aircraft. The combined value of the 75 aircraft was 5.1 billion dollars (based on list prices at the time.) Delivery of the aircraft started in 2007. All of these aircraft were equipped with blended winglets, to significantly improve fuel efficiency.

2007-2012: Takeovers, expansion and new alliances

Boeing 737-76Q, Air Berlin AN0775825.jpg
In 2005, one of Air Berlin's Boeing 737-700s featured a special livery promoting Boeing's Dreamliner program.
Air Berlin Airbus A330-200 Prasertwit-3.jpg
Following the takeover of LTU in 2007, the Airbus A330-200 (pictured) became part of Air Berlin's fleet. This long-haul aircraft enabled the airline to start flying to intercontinental destinations like Bangkok (as in this case, depicting an approach to Suvarnabhumi Airport in 2008).

In March 2007, Air Berlin took over German leisure airline LTU, gaining access to the long-haul market and becoming the fourth-largest airline group in Europe in terms of passenger traffic. This deal led to the introduction of Airbus A321 and Airbus A330 aircraft into Air Berlin's fleet. The merger of the LTU operations, aircraft and crew was completed on 1 May 2009, when the LTU brand was discontinued.

On 7 July 2007, Air Berlin announced an order for 25 Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner longhaul aircraft, with further options and purchase rights.[36] Three additional aircraft of this type will be leased from ILFC.

On 21 August 2007, Air Berlin acquired a 49 percent shareholding in Swiss charter airline Belair, the remainder being owned by tour operator Hotelplan.[37] Following the deal, Belair's long-haul business was terminated, and the fleet replaced by Airbus A320 family aircraft operating scheduled flights on behalf of Air Berlin as well as charter flights for Hotelplan.

On 20 September 2007, Air Berlin announced it intended to buy its direct competitor Condor in a deal that envisaged Condor's owner, Thomas Cook Group, taking a 30% stake in Air Berlin.[38] A variety of considerations, including the rapidly increasing price of jet fuel, led to the abandonment of the deal in July 2008.

In January 2008 Air Berlin introduced a new logo and corporate design. The logo is a white oval shape on a red background (suggesting an aircraft window) where the letter “a” is a white circle and two white stylised wings. The text "Air Berlin" in the logo is now in lower case and written as one word. Sometimes the slogan “Your Airline” also features as part of the logo.[39]

In June 2008, CEO Joachim Hunold offended Catalan language speakers, when he claimed[40] in an article included in Air Berlin's inflight magazine that the government of the Balearic Islands was trying to impose the use of Catalan on Air Berlin flights from and to Majorca. He claimed that Air Berlin was an international airline and was not obliged to use Catalan. Hunold went on to criticise the language policy in Catalonia and the Balearic Islands, claiming that at the time many children could not speak any Spanish.[41] The Balearic Islands' President, Francesc Antich, explained that his government had simply sent a letter to encourage airlines operating in the Balearic Islands to include Catalan among the languages used for onboard announcements.[42]

On 18 June of the same year, Air Berlin announced that it would reduce its long-haul services by 13 percent, as well as cut 10 percent of services in the domestic market in an effort to increase profitability.[43]

In September 2008, Air Berlin confirmed merger talks with competitor TUIfly, but added it was speaking with all parties. Air Berlin had, until 2007, been flying many code-share TUI flights. At the end of March 2009, Air Berlin PLC and TUI Travel PLC signed a deal by which their German flight businesses were to operate a long-term strategic alliance. Originally, each company was to take a 19.9% stake in the other and the German cartel authorities were petitioned for approval. After the Bundeskartellamt expressed concerns, the cross ownership plan was not implemented. Instead, TUI Travel PLC purchased a 9.9% stake in Air Berlin PLC using a capital increase at a subsidiary to do so.[44]

In January 2009 Air Berlin started cooperating with Hainan Airlines, China’s fourth-largest airline. The airlines jointly market flights between Berlin and Beijing. The code-share flights are sold on a reciprocal basis and operated under the relevant airline’s own flight number.[45]

At the end of March 2009, a strategic partnership agreement with TUI Travel was signed, with Air Berlin and its direct competitor TUIfly purchasing 19.9 percent of the other's shares.[46] Following the deal, Air Berlin took over all German domestic TUIfly routes, as well as those to Italy, Croatia and Austria. Also, all of Tuifly's Boeing 737-700 aircraft were added to Air Berlin's fleet. Further route changes will see TUIfly abandoning all scheduled flights and relying exclusively on the charter business.[47]

In March 2009, ESAS Holding A.S., a Turkish company bought approximately 15 per cent of the voting shares in Air Berlin, to which the German competition regulator had no objections.[48]

Also in 2009, Air Berlin added Hartmut Mehdorn to the board of directors after his retirement at Deutsche Bahn.[49]

In October 2009 Air Berlin started cooperating with Bangkok Airways. Bangkok Airways flights can be booked on a codeshare basis by Air Berlin customers.[50]

Air Berlin Group
Company Interest
airberlin technik GmbH 100 %
airberlin Holidays GmbH 049 %
Belair 100 %
Niki 100 %

In April 2010 Air Berlin expanded its codeshare arrangements with Russia’s S7 Airlines. Air Berlin and S7 Airlines had been cooperating since October 2008. New services include codeshare flights via Moscow to destinations such as Irkutsk, Perm and Rostov.[51]

In July 2010, Air Berlin announced an increase in its shareholding in the Austrian airline Niki. Following the fulfilment of the required conditions, the agreements notarized on 17 February 2010 have been implemented. Air Berlin indirectly acquired 25.9% of the shares in Niki from Privatstiftung Lauda (private Lauda foundation) and in doing so increased its current shareholding in Niki from 24% to 49.9%. In connection with the increase of its shareholding, Air Berlin will grant the private Lauda foundation a 40.5 million-euro loan. The private foundation has the option to repay the loan in three years with cash or through the transfer of the remaining 50.1% of Niki's shares.[52]

D-ABMC (8629266400) (2).jpg
Since becoming a member of Oneworld, several Air Berlin aircraft display the global airline alliance's logo, as seen on this Boeing 737-800.
Airbus A319-112, Air Berlin JP6900509.jpg
An Airbus A319 on final approach at Zurich Airport in 2010, featuring a livery variant using the "Air Berlin" titles on the tail prior to the introduction of the current logo

In July 2010, it was also announced that Air Berlin would join Oneworld, the global airline alliance.[53] In preparation for joining the alliance, Air Berlin began to offer flights under codeshare agreements with American Airlines and Finnair, starting with the 2010/2011 winter schedule. Its cooperation with American Airlines means that Air Berlin passengers gain access to the American market whilst it also offers codeshare flights with Finnair to Helsinki and within Europe.[54]

Air Berlin founded Follow Me Entertainment GmbH in September 2010 as a joint venture with kick-media ag. This joint venture company markets image and sound media, books, games as well as events, concerts, tournaments and sponsoring.[55]

The foundations were laid for the first maintenance hangar at Berlin Brandenburg Airport (BER) on 21 March 2011. Air Berlin, which will share use of the hangar with Germania when the airport is opened, has doubled Air Berlin Technik's maintenance capacity at its Berlin site.[56]

On 1 April 2011 Air Berlin completed the integration of LTU which it took over in August 2007. There is now a single flight schedule and all Air Berlin Group technical services have been merged into a new company called airberlin technik GmbH.[57] Also in April 2011 Air Berlin underlined the importance of its Düsseldorf hub by creating a new position of North-Rhine Westphalia Regional Director. It also added new routes, more frequent flights and additional long-haul flights from Düsseldorf.[58]

On 15 June 2011, Air Berlin and British Airways reached a codeshare agreement covering some flights within Europe, starting from 5 July 2011. The agreement applies to flights to over 40 European destinations served by the two airlines.[59]

CEO Joachim Hunold resigned from his position on 1 September 2011 and was succeeded by the former CEO of Deutsche Bahn AG, Hartmut Mehdorn, who led the company on an interim basis until January 2013. From January 2013 Wolfgang Prock-Schauer took over the position of CEO.[60]

Air Berlin has cooperated with the Italian airline Meridiana since September 2011, and has offered flights since 30 October 2011 with Meridiana between Italy and Germany.[61]

In November 2011 Air Berlin and Pegasus Airlines launched Air Berlin Turkey, aiming at the charter market between Germany and Turkey. Pegasus Airlines is the largest private airline company in Turkey and is 16.5% owned by ESAS Holding AS.[62] involved in Air Berlin.[63][64] The new airline was absorbed into Pegasus Airlines on 31 March 2013.[65]

In the 3rd quarter of 2011, the turnover of the company amounted to 1.4 billion euros, an increase of 11%. However operating profit decreased by almost to 50%, around 97 million euros. As a result, a new bond to raise additional capital was issued.[66] In November 2011, a marketing campaign was launched and further preparations to join the oneworld airline alliance were made.[67]

In November 2011 Air Berlin took over the remaining 50.1% stake in NIKI in the repayment of a loan and is now the sole owner of the company. The brand name is to be retained and Niki Lauda was given a position on the board of Air Berlin.[68]

Air Berlin announced on 19 December 2011 that the Abu Dhabi airline Etihad Airways had increased its share of Air Berlin from 2.99% to 29.1%, for a sum of 73 million euros, immediately making Etihad the company's largest shareholder.[69] The deal supplied more cash to Air Berlin, and provided Etihad access to Air Berlin's European network.[69]

Air Berlin became a full member of Oneworld on 20 March 2012, a move that was originally announced on 2 February 2012. Austrian airline NIKI, which is also part of the Air Berlin group, joined Oneworld as an affiliate member on the same day.[70]

2012-2015: Restructuring amid continuing losses

Airberlin aircraft at Berlin Tegel Airport.jpg
Air Berlin aircraft at Terminal C of Berlin Tegel Airport in September 2014

The cooperation of the frequent flyer programs topbonus and Etihad Guest was announced in March 2012.[71] In June 2012, the collaboration concluded with the bonus programs airberlin business points and Ethiad Airways Business Connect for SMBs.[72]

On 20 March 2012, the announced entry into the airline alliance oneworld was officially completed.[73] The extended international network offers over 800 destinations in 150 countries.[74] At the same time, the airline introduced the Platinum status for its frequent flyer program topbonus.[75]

In May 2012 Air Berlin presented its new fare structure "Your Fare" in an effort to offer individual rates for all target groups. Bookings are available for the rates "Just Fly", "Fly Classic" and "FlyFlex" for flights from 1 July 2012.[76] On 11 May 2012 Air Berlin opened its triweekly non-stop flight from Berlin to Los Angeles in the summer schedule, a destination which until then had only been served from Düsseldorf.[77] In March 2013, the Berlin-Chicago route started, feeding into American Airlines' hub at O'Hare International Airport.[78]

On 18 December 2012 Air Berlin announced that topbonus, its frequent flyer program, would be sold to Etihad Airways; only a 30-percent minority share would be retained.[79] Air Berlin also announced the expansion of the existing codeshare agreement with Etihad Airways on 20 December 2012. This includes flights via Abu Dhabi to Chengdu, Beijing, Shanghai, Tokyo and Nagoya.[80]

Air Berlin intended to move its largest hub from Tegel to Berlin Brandenburg Airport (terminal interior pictured). Although the new airport was planned to open in 2012, it has not opened as of October 2017.

In January 2013, the first Airbus A330-200 was introduced with a new business class which enables a fully flat position for the first time. The long-haul fleet of Air Berlin had already been modified with a business class of high quality in 2012.[81]

On 7 January 2013 Air Berlin appointed Austrian Wolfgang Prock-Schauer, former Chief Strategy and Planning Officer, as the company's CEO, replacing Hartmut Mehdorn. Mehdorn had held the position on an interim basis since September 2011.[82]

Air Berlin started flights between Berlin and Chicago on 23 March 2013. It cancelled the seasonal non-stop flights to Las Vegas, San Francisco and Vancouver.[83]

In March 2013 Air Berlin announced the closure of its seasonal hub for leisure destinations at Nuremberg Airport. Only ten year-round direct routes remained.[84]

On 24 September 2014, Air Berlin cancelled all remaining 15 orders for their Boeing 787s as well as 18 remaining orders for Boeing 737-800s as part of their restructuring programme. It is assumed that an all-Airbus fleet is planned.[85]

In October 2014, the Luftfahrt-Bundesamt denied Air Berlin authorization to operate 34 routes as a codeshare with co-owner Etihad from the 2014/2015 winter schedule as they would contravene the bilateral traffic rights between Germany and the UAE.[86] Also in October 2014, Air Berlin announced that it was terminating flights to Palma de Mallorca from both Bremen Airport and Dortmund Airport, therefore withdrawing entirely from these two German airports.[87]

Air Berlin announced a net loss for 2014 of €376m (€316m loss in 2013). The airline’s revenues in 2014 stagnated at €4.16 billion.[2][88]

In September 2015, Air Berlin phased out the last Boeing 737-700s owned by the company. The remaining aircraft of this type will operate on a wetlease basis from TUIfly until 2019. All Boeing 737-800s are to be phased out by 2016 as Air Berlin plans to focus their short- and medium-haul fleet on the Airbus A320 family to cut costs.[89]

In November 2015, Air Berlin announced the closure of its Palma de Mallorca Airport hub by ceasing all Spanish domestic routes by 3 April 2016. It currently serves seven routes within Spain from Palma which are connected to several routes from Germany.[90][91] Some days earlier, the airline announced plans to expand its long-haul network with flights from Düsseldorf to Boston, Dallas/Fort Worth, San Francisco and Havana by spring 2016.[92] However, the planned route to Dallas/Fort Worth was cancelled a few weeks later due to low demand.[93]

On 30 December 2015, the administrative court in Braunschweig ruled in favour of the German civil aviation authority (the Luftfahrt-Bundesamt) and against Air Berlin regarding some of their codeshare operations with Etihad Airways. The shared sale and advertising of 31 out of 83 routes which are marketed by both has been declared illegal and needs to be stopped by 15 January 2016 as it is not covered by the bilateral air traffic agreement between Germany and the UAE. One of the routes which is no longer allowed to use an Etihad codeshare is Air Berlin's service from Stuttgart to Abu Dhabi. The Luftfahrt-Bundesamt had only allowed these flights until a definite legal ruling was made.[94]

2016-2017: Restructuring Efforts

In April 2016, Air Berlin announced a record loss of 446 million euros for 2015. The airline's revenues in 2015 decreased to €4.08 billion.[95] Amongst the reasons considered for Air Berlin's poor performance were: crippling debt of over €800m; unclear and rapid strategy changes on routes and advertising; several CEOs over recent years; a five-year-plus delay to the new hub Berlin Brandenburg Airport; failed negotiations to profit from lower fuel prices and the overall harsh competition in the airline industry.[96]

In July 2016, Air Berlin confirmed that it no longer owned any of the aircraft it operates, having sold and leased back the last of the aircraft it had previously owned.[97] A few weeks later it was reported that Air Berlin and Etihad Airways were in talks with Lufthansa regarding the sale of some of Air Berlin's operational assets to Lufthansa, mainly routes outside of the hubs in Berlin and Düsseldorf, some staff and several aircraft leases.[98] Lufthansa is reportedly considering integrating these operations with those of its own Eurowings subsidiary.[99]

In July 2016, Air Berlin announced the increase of flights to the United States from 55 to 78 nonstops per week for 2017. Besides some frequency increases, Los Angeles and San Francisco will be served from Berlin in addition to the services from Düsseldorf, while Düsseldorf will also see an entirely new route to Orlando.[100] A few days later, the airline announced the introduction of a business class on its short- and medium-haul flights.[101]

In December 2016, Air Berlin announced that their chief executive Stefan Pichler will step down after serving two years as CEO. He will be replaced February 1 by former head of Germanwings, Thomas Winkelmann.[102]

The "new Air Berlin" project

On 28 September 2016, Air Berlin announced radical restructuring under the project name The new airberlin.[103] The airline will reduce its network from around 140 destinations to 70, and focus on their hubs in Berlin and Düsseldorf, and two smaller bases in Stuttgart and Munich, with six bases being closed.[103] Air Berlin will target business travellers and concentrate on flights to domestic German destinations, Italy, Scandinavia and eastern Europe. It will also expand its long-haul business.[103] The restructuring is also planned to involve the loss of up to 1200 jobs (FTE).[103]

With a current narrowbody jet fleet of 118, Air Berlin, including its subsidiaries Belair and Niki, plans to cut 40 aircraft from the fleet, leaving Air Berlin with its own fleet of 75 aircraft in future, if the deal is approved: 17 Airbus A330-200 for long-haul operations while 40 Airbus A320 family aircraft and 18 Bombardier Q400 aircraft will serve European routes.[103][104] A separate business unit concentrating on tourist destinations will also be formed, with 35 aircraft. This unit might be operated with a new business partner - with TUIfly being the assumed partner as they already operate several aircraft for Air Berlin[105] - or sold altogether.[103] The remaining 40 aircraft including crews are to be wet-leased to competitor Lufthansa Group which will use them for their Eurowings (35 aircraft) and Austrian Airlines (5 aircraft)[106] subsidiaries for a period of six years.[107]

In October 2016, Air Berlin announced plans to close four of its seven airberlin Technik maintenance facilities and lay off 500 of their staff.[108]

On 5 December 2016, Air Berlin announced plans to sell its entire 49-percent stake in its Austrian subsidiary Niki to its own minority owner Etihad Airways.[5][109] Simultaneously, Niki and Air Berlin will exchange several aircraft to harmonize each fleet.[5] It has also been announced that Niki will take over several routes to southern European, north African and Turkish leisure destinations from Air Berlin as part of the new joint-venture.[109]

Also in December 2016, Air Berlin announced the transfer of its entire fleet of 21 A321-200s to Niki and Niki's transfer of all its 5 A319-100s and 13 A320-200s to Air Berlin.[110] Air Berlin would discontinue its wet-lease with TUIfly.[110] In the same month, it was announced that a total of 38 Airbus A319/A320 aircraft would be wet-leased to Lufthansa Group's Eurowings (33 aircraft) and Austrian Airlines (five), effective February 2017. As a result, lowering Air Berlin's restructuring costs.[111]

In January 2017, Air Berlin announced reductions to its network for the upcoming 2017 season, with most leisure routes either transferred to Niki or cancelled altogether; some domestic and European city routes are to be dropped with the remaining reduced network focusing on the Berlin-Tegel and Düsseldorf hubs.[112]

On 28 April 2017, a loss of -781.9 million was announced for 2016, from a revenue of 3.79 billion.[1]

Also in late April 2017, Air Berlin confirmed the creation of Air Berlin Aeronautics GmbH, a new subsidiary which will possess its own operational licence (AOC) to take over the wetlease operations currently handled by Air Berlin on behalf of Eurowings and Austrian Airlines.[113] Therefore, the 'actual' Air Berlin will focus on the operations under its own brand name.[113]

In May 2017, Air Berlin announced it would buy Luftfahrtgesellschaft Walter entirely, in which it had a controlling stake since 2009.[114]


On 15 August 2017, Air Berlin entered insolvency procedures after the withdrawal of ongoing support from its largest shareholder, Etihad, and the resignation of board directors appointed by Etihad.[115]

On 11 September 2017, Air Berlin announced the termination of all flights to the Caribbean by 25 September 2017.[116] Shortly afterwards, it was made public that leasing company AerCap had announced the repossession of ten Airbus A330-200s leased to Air Berlin on short notice, leading to the termination of several long-haul routes.[117]

The final long-haul flight, from Miami to Düsseldorf, was operated on 15 October 2017.[118] It was also announced that the board of Air Berlin had intensified talks with Lufthansa and its subsidiary Eurowings, as well as easyJet, as the preferred bidders for major parts of the company.[119]

On 9 October 2017, Air Berlin announced to its staff that it would cease all remaining operations under its own AB flight numbers due to its negative financial outlook and bankruptcy proceedings.[120] Meanwhile, all wet lease operations - mainly on behalf of Eurowings and Austrian Airlines - as well as the operations of subsdiaries Niki and LGW would be maintained until further notice.[120]

On 12 October 2017, Lufthansa agreed to buy 81 aircraft and employ 3000 Air Berlin workers together for € 210 million, taking over the subsidiaries Niki and Luftfahrtgesellschaft Walter with a total of 1700 employees. This paid back the government loan of € 150 million to be for 3 months operational. 4000 employees maybe goes into a Transfer Company made by three states to absorve temporarily social costs. [121][122]

On 19 October 2017, an Airberlin A320, D-ABDX, was grounded at Keflavik airport in Iceland due to unpaid airport charges, a result of its announcement that the airline was insolvent. [123]

Air Berlin's final flight will be AB6210 from Munich to Berlin on an A320 on 27 October 2017. It is completely booked due to passengers' great interest. [124]

Corporate affairs

Air Berlin Geb%C3%A4ude 2 Eingang Buchholzweg 7-8 002.jpg
Air Berlin headquarters at the Airport Bureau Center in Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf, Berlin.


Air Berlin PLC shares are publicly traded on Xetra and on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange in the regulated market. Trading in the regulated unofficial market takes place at the exchanges in Berlin, Düsseldorf, Hamburg, Munich and Stuttgart.[125] Since December 2011, Etihad Airways has been the largest shareholder in Air Berlin. As of December 2015, major shareholders (over 5%) are:[95]

Business trends

Close up-profile pic.jpg
Stefan Pichler, CEO of Air Berlin from 2016 to February 2017.

The key trends for Air Berlin Group (including Niki) over recent years are shown below (as at year ending 31 December):

Flight school

Air Berlin has been running its own pilot-training scheme since 2007 in a joint venture with the TFC Käufer flight school. Trainees complete their commercial pilot training to the latest industry standards over a period of around 24 months. The Air Berlin flight school was the first flight school in Germany to be awarded a training licence by the German Department of Aviation for the new Multi-Crew Pilot Licence concept in February 2009.[135]

Technical services

Air Berlin has its own maintenance and overhaul branch, airberlin technik with facilities in Berlin, Düsseldorf, Munich, Stuttgart, Frankfurt, Hamburg and Nuremberg which employs 1300 staff as of October 2016.[108] The technical branch is a certified EASA Part-145 maintenance organization with approximately 1200 employees providing services to both Air Berlin group aircraft and customers throughout Europe. airberlin technik is recognized and approved by various National Airworthiness Authorities such as USA FAA-145, Canadian CAA-145, Aruba EASA-145, Federal Aviation Authority of Russia, GCAA, United Arab Emirates.[136] In October 2016, Air Berlin announced to close the technical bases in Stuttgart, Frankfurt, Hamburg and Nuremberg while laying of 500 staff due to restructuring measures.[108]


As of October 2017, Air Berlin flies to 37 scheduled year-round and seasonal destinations in 14 countries in Europe and the Middle East.[137]

Codeshare agreements

Air Berlin codeshares with the following airlines:[138]


Current fleet

Airbus A320-214, Air Berlin JP7636395.jpg
Air Berlin Airbus A320-200
D-ALPI 2 A330-223 Air Berlin(BER) DUS 24JUN12 (7438586000).jpg
Air Berlin Airbus A330-200

As of 15 October 2017, the Air Berlin fleet consists of the following aircraft:[139]

Historical fleet

Air Berlin F100.jpg
Between 2004 and 2009, Air Berlin operated the Fokker 100. Most of them were leased from Germania.[20]

Over the years, Air Berlin has operated the following aircraft types:[143]


Aircraft cabins

Airbus A319-111, Air Berlin AN1584645.jpg
Air Berlin Airbus A319-100 cabin

Long-haul flights

Air Berlin long-haul aircraft feature business and economy class sections. At the beginning of 2012, Air Berlin started the renewal of its long-haul cabin, equipping both economy class and business class with new seats and a new in-flight entertainment system. Fully automatic seats that could tilt up to 170 degrees provided high comfort in the business class, in addition to an anti-thrombosis edition and an individually adjustable headrest, and more legroom, narrower seat back, the seat improves comfort in economy class. All seats have an 8.9-inch monitor that is easy to use per touch screen and offers a variety of movies, series, music, audio books and games.[144] In January 2013 the airline again presented a new business class which replaced the one introduced a year earlier. Primarily, the new business class has single seats, thus offering travellers even more privacy. The new seats have a full-flat function, a massage function and feature a 15-inch monitor.[81]

Short- and medium-haul flights

Air Berlin did not offer a Business class product on its short- and medium-haul flights until the airline announced its introduction in August 2016. All short- and medium-haul aircraft will now feature a designated business class in row 1 with expanded services including an empty middle seat.[101]

Passenger services

Tegel airport 02.03.2013 13-10-22.JPG
Air Berlin check-in counters

In contrast to pure European low-cost carriers, Air Berlin offered free in-flight snacks and drinks until September 2016.[145] Newspapers and magazines are available on domestic German flights.[146] Full hot meals are complimentary on long-haul flights. On all Air Berlin routes with a flight time of 60 minutes or longer, gourmet meals are offered, which are, according to the airline, created by chefs at "Sansibar", a famous restaurant on the island of Sylt. The airline also offers in-flight entertainment, assigned seating and guaranteed flight connections.[147] Air Berlin's basic fares are both nonrefundable and not changeable, so unused flights/fares are a complete loss to the purchaser.

Frequent flyer program

Air Berlin's frequent flyer program is called topbonus. Points, known as miles, can be collected on flights operated by Air Berlin, Niki, Oneworld Alliance airline partners, and selected other airlines. Accrued miles can be redeemed for award flights, or for an upgrade to business class. In addition to the entry-level "topbonus Card Classic" there are cards with Silver, Gold, and Platinum status, corresponding to Oneworld Ruby, Sapphire, and Emerald statuses. A Service Card and a Credit Card, for which a charge is made, are also available.

Ethiad purchased a 70% stake in Top Bonus for €184 million in 2012. Following the insolvency of Air Berlin, Top Bonus also filed for insolvency on 25 August 2017.[148]

Accidents and incidents

As of October 2017, Air Berlin has not suffered an accident or incident resulting in the loss of life or an aircraft in over 39 years of operations.

  • On 18 October 2017, Air Berlin flight AB7001, D-ABXA, an Airbus A330-233, performed a go-around and flew over the terminal, against standard go-around procedures, while landing at Dusseldorf Airport. Radar information reports that the aircraft was at approximately 100 ft or 30 m, as it passed over the terminal. [149] This was an intentional move by the crew as a 'lap of honour' for Air Berlin's last long-haul flight. It is reported that the crew gained permission from air traffic control prior to performing the maneuver. German aviation authority Luftfahrtbundesamt has launched an investigation and have began reviewing video footage and air traffic control recordings of the incident. Both pilots have been suspended pending the outcome of the investigation. Meanwhile the passengers liked and applauded the farewell. [118][150]

See also


  1. ^ holder of supplemental air carrier certificate authorised to operate non-scheduled passenger and cargo services to supplement the scheduled operations of certificated route air carriers; an airline holding a supplemental air carrier certificate was also known as a "nonsked" in the United States
  2. ^ the United States supplemental carrier industry association



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External links

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