Air Berlin’s bankruptcy and a struggling Alitalia consolidate Lufthansa’s grip over Europe’s air transport

The August bankruptcy in Germany of Air Berlin, concluded by the carrier’s disappearance at the end of October opened a window of opportunity for Lufthansa to strengthen its position in Europe.

Mid October, Lufthansa agreed to buy assets from insolvent Air Berlin. Since last year, the carrier had already been leasing 38 aircraft from the insolvent airline for its own hybrid subsidiary, Eurowings. The carrier is now poised to integrate a total of 81 aircraft from Air Berlin’s fleet of 130 aircraft. Germany’s largest carrier announced also it would buy Air Berlin’s Niki leisure unit as well as a regional affiliate.

Most importantly, it gives Lufthansa a pre-eminent positioning in two of Europe’s most important centres of air traffic: Berlin- Tegel and Düsseldorf. By Spring 2018, Lufthansa’s subsidiary Eurowings will take over many of the previous routes flown by Air Berlin from both airports. The carrier already launched five non-stop frequencies to New York in November. More flights will be offered by Eurowings, even in competition with Lufthansa on routes such as Berlin-Frankfurt, Berlin-Munich or Düsseldorf-Munich, offering lower fares to consumers.

In Düsseldorf, Lufthansa already boosted frequencies on European and North American destinations and announced that Eurowings will start flying to a dozen new destinations from the summer.

Lufthansa meanwhile announced it would make a 250 million for large parts of Alitalia, including the fleet, pilots, air crew and air slots. According to a recent report, Lufthansa offered to keep around 90-100 Alitalia aircraft, down from a fleet of 123 and use Rome Fiumicino as an intercontinental hub while Milan Malpensa would be mostly a major European gateway for point-to-point flights.