Abu Dhabi’s Etihad Aviation Group has confirmed that it is in talks with German travel giant TUI to create a new European airline focused on key tourist markets.
The group’s new fleet would include Air Berlin’s leisure operations, which are being split off from the airline as part of an extensive restructuring plan announced at the end of September.
TUI Group is the world’s largest tourism business, with a portfolio of 300 hotels, 14 cruise liners and six European airlines.
Etihad has a 29 percent stake in Air Berlin, which is one of seven different airlines in which the UAE flag-carrier has invested in recent years, as part of its equity partnership strategy.
In a statement, Etihad said the proposed airline’s fleet would also include the 14 aircraft operated by TUIfly for Air Berlin under a current wet-lease agreement.
“This new airline group would serve a broad network of destinations from Germany, Austria and Switzerland,” Etihad said in a statement.
“The leisure airline group will be supported by the expertise of Etihad Aviation Group, the fastest-growing aviation group in the world, and utilise TUI’s state-of-the-art distribution capacity.”
Air Berlin’s restructuring will allow Germany’s second-largest carrier to focus on higher-yielding markets, the airline said last week.
From the middle of next year, Air Berlin will operate a 75-strong fleet to serve profitable long-haul as well as short- to medium-haul flights, including to major business centres in Europe, from two main hubs in Berlin and Dusseldorf.
The strategy will enable the carrier to add new long-haul routes and frequencies, particularly to the US, it said.
Air Berlin will also loan up to 40 of its A320 aircraft to Lufthansa, 38 of which will be wet-leased over a six year period.
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