ABU DHABI — Etihad Aviation Group and TUI AG today confirmed they are in discussions to create a strong European leisure airline group, focused on point-to-point flying to connect key tourist markets.
Germany’s struggling Air Berlin says it will discuss transferring part of its fleet to a new group that would be set up by tour operator TUI Group and Abu Dhabi-based Etihad, a major shareholder.
It is proposed to contribute the touristic operations of the airberlin group and the German TUIfly company, including the aircraft currently operated by TUIfly for airberlin under a wet-lease agreement, into a new airline group. It would serve a broad network of destinations from Germany, Austria and Switzerland.
Air Berlin’s announcement came after it said last week that it plans to cut its 144-strong fleet nearly in half and eliminate some 1,200 jobs as part of a restructuring to develop a leaner operation and focus on its most profitable routes.
The new leisure airline group will be supported by the expertise of Etihad Aviation Group, a fast-growing aviation group, and utilize TUI’s state-of-the-art distribution capacity.
TUI AG, Etihad Aviation Group and Air Berlin PLC intend to finalize an in-principle agreement in due course. Any agreement entered into will be subject to all necessary corporate and regulatory approvals.
TUIfly is part of TUI Group, a leading tourism business, with around 75,000 employees serving 30 million customers a year, across the globe. TUI Group has a portfolio of more than 300 hotels, 14 cruise liners, six European airlines with around 140 aircraft and a wide-reaching distribution network, covering more than 1,800 travel agencies and online portals.
Etihad Aviation Group is a diversified aviation and travel group, with more than 26,000 employees. It comprises four business divisions – Etihad Airways, the national airline of the United Arab Emirates, Etihad Airways Engineering, the Hala Group, its destination management company, and the Airline Equity Partners.
Etihad Aviation Group holds minority stakes in Air Berlin PLC, Air Serbia, Air Seychelles, Alitalia, Etihad Regional, Jet Airways and Virgin Australia.
airberlin is the second largest airline in Germany and carried more than 30.2 million passengers in 2015. airberlin offers a global route network through its strategic partnership with Etihad Airways, which has a 29.21 per cent shareholding in airberlin, and through membership of the oneworld airline alliance.