TUI Group is poised to launch its own long-haul flights from Germany to the Caribbean next year after sealing a deal with pilots over costs and working conditions.
TUIfly announced today it will take off with two Dreamliner B787 jets in winter 2020/21, flying to destinations in the Caribbean and Mexico as well as TUI Cruises departure ports. The flights are likely to carry mostly customers of TUI Germany and TUI Cruises, along with customers of other tour operators.
The move comes after the airline sealed an agreement with the German pilots’ union Vereinigung Cockpit following long negotiations, including mediation. The deal covers operational cost reductions and additional work for the pilots in exchange for investments in new aircraft. Europe’s largest tourism group is reportedly ready to invest a three-digit million euro sum in setting up a long-haul flight operation from Germany.
“An agreement with our negotiating partners makes the decision in favour of long-haul routes possible,” said TUIfly managing director Oliver Lackmann. “Should further changes in the market reduce capacity in the coming months, then we can also implement the planned fleet expansion more rapidly,” he added. Vereinigung Cockpit had earlier said that TUIfly would operate five B787s on long-haul routes from Germany next winter.
Lackmann explained that TUI Group would have several strategic advantages from operating its own long-haul flights from Germany. In particular, the flights would carry TUI Cruises passengers to their departure port “under our own flag” and could serve TUI’s own hotels in the Caribbean.
Following the collapse of Air Berlin, TUI and other German tour operators currently rely largely on Condor and Lufthansa subsidiary Eurowings for capacity on direct long-haul flights from Germany to major holiday destinations in the Caribbean, Indian Ocean, south-east Asia and other regions. However, the future of Condor remains uncertain as it seeks a new strategic investor.
In 2018, TUIfly, which currently operates a fleet of 39 short-haul B737 planes, flew 7.9 million passengers to destinations in the Mediterranean as well as the Canaries, Madeira and Egypt. About half of these passengers were TUI Germany customers, about 30% came from other tour operators and about 20% had booked directly with the airline.Overall, TUI Group’s five airlines currently operate 149 planes, including 23 long-distance jets. The group already operates long-haul flights from the UK, Scandinavia, Belgium and the Netherlands.