CEO Out at Air Berlin as Lufthansa Takeover Looms

  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    A complete, although gradual, takeover of ailing Air Berlin by Lufthansa is now thought to be unavoidable but the consolidation raises serious concerns about competition in Germany’s aviation sector.

  • Facts


    • Etihad, Air Berlin’s largest shareholder since 2011, has pumped more than €1 billion into Air Berlin to keep it afloat but is unlikely to be involved in the proposed rescue plan for the ailing airline.
    • Air Berlin suffered a loss of €46 million ($47 million) in the third quarter of 2016, down from a €56 million profit in the third quarter of 2015.
    • Industry experts say that Air Berlin’s aim to concentrate on business travelers and long-distance routes will not be enough to save the company in the long term.
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Air Berlin – Stefan Pichler
Air Berlin's CEO Stefan Pichler will resign. Picture source: Maja Hitij / DPA

With losses mounting and options dwindling, struggling German No. 2 carrier Air Berlin on Sunday appointed its fourth chief executive in five years, in a move sources said would be a prelude to an eventual takeover by Lufthansa.

Air Berlin, which is 29-percent owned by Etihad of Abu Dhabi, said it had appointed Thomas Winkelmann, who led Lufthansa’s discount carrier Germanwings for a decade, as its new chief executive.

According to information obtained by Handelsblatt, the German government with state governments based in Munich and Düsseldorf have agreed to facilitate Air Berlin’s gradual integration into Lufthansa, which would lead to the effective merger of the nation’s top two airlines.

German government officials had been worried that Air Berlin’s biggest shareholder, Etihad, was poised to sell effective control of Air Berlin to another foreign carrier and intervened to keep the airline in German hands.

Mr. Winkelmann, the new Air Berlin chief executive, is replacing Stefan Pichler, a German who had come to Air Berlin after running tiny Fiji Airways. Mr. Pichler will step down in late January after almost two years at Air Berlin.

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