The German Federal Cartel Office has decided that Air Berlin will be allowed to take over the city flights network of the Hapag-Lloyd Fluggesellschaft mbH (TUIfly) airline, starting with the 2009/10 winter flight schedule. At the end of March of this year, TUI and Air Berlin signed a corresponding agreement and (originally) a 19.9 percent cross-shareholding deal between their two airlines was submitted to the German Federal Cartel Office for approval. However, the cross-holding originally planned will now not be implemented by the two companies. Whether TUI can take a 9.9 percent stake in Air Berlin PLC or whether a company belonging to the TUI Travel PLC group will pay the sum of EUR 15 million to Air Berlin PLC depends on the outcome of further talks with the German Federal Cartel Office. In recent weeks, the cartel authorities in Italy, Austria, and Portugal had already agreed to the Air Berlin takeover of TUIfly’s inter-city flights. The approval of the Spanish cartel office is still awaiting.
Through its takeover of the TUIfly city routes, Air Berlin is strengthening its presence in the Cologne, Stuttgart, and Italy markets. The view of Air Berlin CEO Joachim Hunold is clear: “Air Berlin is thus expanding its network of European and domestic German routes, which is extremely important for business customers in particular. At the same time, Air Berlin’s position within the challenging economic environment will be enhanced.”
“Air Berlin’s takeover of the TUIfly city route sector enables us, in our German airline business, to concentrate on the remaining touristic flights portfolio. This in turn will place TUIfly on a stable economic footing with a better competitive position within the European air travel market,” pointed out Dr. Volker Böttcher, managing director, central Europe, TUI Travel PLC.
The approval of the agreement means all previous inter-city flights will become the commercial responsibility of Air Berlin with the start of the 2009/10 winter schedule (October 25, 2009) – one of the key components of the contract. This concerns all domestic German flights plus particularly those to Italy and Austria. All flights already booked with TUIfly for these routes will then be handled by Air Berlin. To this end, Air Berlin will charter aircraft from TUIfly by way of a long-term leasing contract: initially 13 aircraft for the 2009/10 winter schedule and then 14 aircraft from summer 2010 onwards (crews included). The touristic TUI routes (e.g., Balearics, Canaries, Turkey) will be marketed unchanged under the TUIfly brand as before. TUIfly will be deploying 23 aircraft in this market, with the standards of quality that customers expect of TUIfly. All touristic TUIfly flights, and in future the routes of other airlines, too, can still be booked via www.tuifly.com. In the next weeks, all TUIfly city flights will still be available via www.tuifly.com; thereafter, they will be on offer at www.airberlin.com. TUIfly customers will experience no changes for bookings with a date of travel up to and including October 24, 2009.