Air Berlin looking into sale of LTU airline


BERLIN – Germany’s second-biggest airline, Air Berlin, is looking into a possible sale of its LTU charter airline unit due a deteriorating economic environment and pilots’ pay raise demands, it said on Wednesday.

“This is not a change in strategy,” Chief Executive Joachim Hunold told a news conference, adding that Air Berlin may sell the LTU operations but would continue to market its long-haul flights via the airline.

Hunold said there were no interested parties for LTU yet and Air Berlin was under no pressure to decide on LTU’s future.

The reason for this move was “unacceptable demands of the pilots’ pay commission”, Air Berlin said.

Air Berlin is in wage talks with the pilots’ union over pay raises and Air Berlin said the demands put forward by the commission — dominated by LTU representatives — were “in no way economically in keeping with the times”.

This is why Air Berlin now decided to examine a possible divestment of LTU.

Air Berlin shares were up 2.4 percent at 3.40 euros by 1205 GMT, slightly outpacing a 1 percent gain in Germany’s small-cap index .SDAXI.

Air Berlin took over LTU in 2007, adding most of its long-haul capacities. Air Berlin operates 125 planes and flies to 127 destinations worldwide, among them flights to southeast Asia, the United States and the Caribbean.

In light of rising fuel costs, it began last year to reduce its long-haul flights and is now like other airlines faced by fallout from the financial crisis as companies spend less on business travel and consumers tighten their purse strings.

Air Berlin’s passenger numbers fell 8.5 percent in February as it cut back its capacity by 6.3 percent.