German airlines

Speculation over Condor – TUIfly talks

Thomas Cook’s German carrier Condor has held talks about a possible merger with TUIfly, according to fvw information, but TUI has denied any discussions.

Amid the flood of news surrounding Air Berlin’s downsizing plans, the related expansion of Eurowings with 40 planes leased from Germany’s second-largest airline and the planned creation of a new leisure airlines group based on TUIfly and Air Berlin’s leisure fleet, Condor appeared to have been on the sidelines in the forthcoming consolidation of the German airline market.

But the Thomas Cook airline looks to have been active behind the scenes. According to inside sources, Condor is also interested in TUIfly and has held ‘initial talks’ about a possible merger. This could combine TUIfly’s 41 medium-haul jets with Condor’s fleet of 45 planes, including 16 long-haul aircraft, in a new leisure airline with a sizeable fleet of 86 aircraft. Moreover, this would be based in Germany, in contrast to the proposed TUIfly/Air Berlin holding which would be based in Austria.

However, TUI responded to the fvw report with a clear denial, declaring: “There are no talks between Condor and TUIfly”. Condor is the largest of Thomas Cook Group’s several airlines and has been a reliable profit-earner in recent years.

The latest speculation follows the announcement of the Air Berlin restructuring plans and the subsequent dramatic protests by TUIfly pilots against the possible merger of TUIfly with part of Air Berlin. Etihad Airways CEO James Hogan is seen as being under pressure to secure rapid agreements with Lufthansa and TUI respectively in order to reduce Air Berlin’s operating losses.

If the Air Berlin/TUIfly ‘leisure airline group’ goes ahead, it would have a fleet of 62 planes, comprising TUIfly’s 41 jets, the 14 planes currently wet-leased by TUI to Air Berlin under a lucrative long-term contract and the 17 planes of Air Berlin’s low-cost Austrian unit Fly Niki.

Under the separate Lufthansa deal, Air Berlin would wet-lease 40 jets to the Lufthansa Group. Eurowings would gain 35 of these to expand its current fleet of 90 jets in order to compete more strongly with Ryanair and Easyjet, while the remaining five would go to Austrian Airlines.

As a result, Air Berlin would be downsized from its current 145 planes to a core fleet of 75 jets for European city routes and long-haul flights.

Meanwhile, Small Planet Airlines, the start-up German charter airline that launched last year and is operating mostly for TUI and Thomas Cook, will double its fleet to four A320s for summer 2017, managing director Andreas Wobig told fvw.

Its two current planes will be relocated in November/December. One A320 will be switched from Bremen to Paderborn for TUI flights, while the second A320 will move to Amsterdam to fly full charter for Thomas Cook to Mediterranean destinations. Thomas Cook Netherlands uses Transavia for about 85% of its air capacity.

The third A320 will go into operation next summer from Padeborn, operating full charter flights for Thomas Cook. The fourth jet will be stationed at Larnaca on Cyprus, and will fly for FTI, DER Touristik and other tour operators.