Farewell to Air Berlin 1978 - 2017
Air Berlin PLC & Co. Luftverkehrs KG, branded as airberlin or airberlin.com, was German two-largest and Europe's tenth-largest airline in terms of passengers carried when it ceased operations. Air Berlin was a member of the Oneworld alliance. The headquartered was in Berlin Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf. The airline filed for insolvency on 15 August 2017 and it ceased operations on 27 October 2017.
Originally was registered as Air Berlin USA, the company was founded in 1978 as a wholly owned subsidiary of Lelco, an American agricultural enterprise headquartered in Oregon, to operate charter flights on behalf of German tour operators from Berlin Tegel Airport, mostly to Mediterranean holiday resorts. As a United States airline, Air Berlin was able to access the West Berlin airline market. During the Cold War, Berlin's special political status meant that the air corridors into and out of Tegel Airport could only be used by airlines registered in France, the United Kingdom or the United States. The airline's headquarters were initially at Tegel Airport. After the company was issued an airline licence and acquired two Boeing 707 jet airliners previously owned by Trans World Airlines, Air Berlin USA commenced revenue services on 28 April 1979 with a flight from Berlin-Tegel to Palma de Mallorca. Plans were made to start long-haul flights on West Berlin-Brussels-Florida routes, in cooperation with Air Florida (an agreement to that effect had been signed in February 1979). In 1980, two Boeing 737-200 were leased from Air Florida. In 1981, Air Berlin USA continued its weekly scheduled Boeing 707 service on the Berlin Tegel Airport - Brussels - Orlando route; however, by 1982, the 707s had been phased out, and during most of the 1980s, Air Berlin USA operated only a single 737-200or (from 1986) a 737-300.In 1990 and 1991, two Boeing 737-400s were also placed into service.
German reunification led to significant changes to the Berlin aviation market, since German airlines gained access to the city. In 1991, Air Berlin (which had 90 employees at the time) was bought by Joachim Hunold, a former sales and marketing director with LTU International, and restructured as Air Berlin GmbH & Co. Luftverkehrs KG, a German-registered company. Following an order for ten Boeing 737-800, Air Berlin grew and by 1999, the fleet comprised twelve aircraft. In 2001, Air Berlin and Hapag-Lloyd Flug became the first airlines in the world to have their Boeing 737-800s fitted with blended winglets, wingtip devices that are intended to improve fuel efficiency. Air Berlin introduced scheduled flights (which could be booked directly with the airline rather than via a tour operator) in 1997, initially linking a number of secondary German airports to Mallorca. By 2002, 35 percent of Air Berlin's tickets were sold directly. In the same year, the route network grew to include destinations other than typical holiday resorts: Low-fare flights to London, Barcelona, Milan and Vienna started. They were marketed as City Shuttle. Besides Berlin-Tegel, these routes were opened at six German airports (Dortmund, Düsseldorf, Hamburg, Münster/Osnabrück, Nuremberg, and Paderborn/Lippstadt) that until then had not been served by one of the rising European low-cost carriers.
In November 2001, the delivery flight of Boeing 737-800 fitted with winglets set a record: the aircraft with the registration code D-ABBC flew 8,345 kilometres non-stop from Seattle (Boeing Field), USA to Berlin (TXL), Germany in 9 hours, 10 minutes. In January 2004, Air Berlin announced it would cooperate with Niki, a Vienna-based airline.As part of the deal, Air Berlin took a 24% stake in Niki. n 2005, Air Berlin signed a partnership agreement with Germania. As part of the deal, Air Berlin leased some of Germania's aircraft and crew, and Germania became almost exclusively a charter airline. Plans were made for Germania to be associated with Air Berlin under a management contract. However, the contract was not signed. At the beginning of March 2008 Germania’s joint owners could not reach agreement on the takeover by Air Berlin, so Germania remained an independent airline.
In August 2006, Air Berlin acquired German domestic airline dba. Flight operations at dba were continued as a fully owned subsidiary of Air Berlin until 14 November 2008, when the dba brand was discontinued due to staff strikes (dba staff were subsequently offered positions with Air Berlin). On 28 November 2006, Air Berlin ordered 60 Boeing 737-800 aircraft, and 15 smaller Boeing 737-700 aircraft. The value of the 75 aircraft was 5.1 billion dollars (based on list prices at the time.) Delivery of the aircraft started in 2007. All of these aircraft were equipped with blended winglets, to improve fuel efficiency. In March 2007, Air Berlin took over German leisure airline LTU, gaining access to the long-haul market and becoming the fourth-largest airline group in Europe in terms of passenger traffic. This deal led to the introduction of Airbus A321 and Airbus A330 aircraft into Air Berlin's fleet. The merger of the LTU operations, aircraft and crew was completed on 1 May 2009, when the LTU brand was discontinued. On 7 July 2007, Air Berlin announced an order for 25 Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner longhaul aircraft, with further options and purchase rights. Three additional aircraft of this type will be leased from ILFC. On 21 August 2007, Air Berlin acquired a 49 percent shareholding in Swiss charter airline Belair, the remainder being owned by tour operator Hotelplan. Following the deal, Belair's long-haul business was terminated, and the fleet was replaced by Airbus A320 family aircraft operating scheduled flights on behalf of Air Berlin as well as charter flights for Hotelplan.
In January 2008 Air Berlin introduced a new logo and corporate design. Air Berlin added Hartmut Mehdorn to the board of directors after his retirement at Deutsche Bahn 2009. In July 2010, Air Berlin announced an increase in its shareholding in the Austrian airline Niki. Air Berlin indirectly acquired 25.9% of the shares in Niki from Privatstiftung Lauda (private Lauda foundation) and in doing so increased its shareholding in Niki from 24% to 49.9%. In connection with the increase of its shareholding, Air Berlin will grant the private Lauda foundation a 40.5 million-euro loan. The private foundation has the option to repay the loan in three years with cash or through the transfer of the remaining 50.1% of Niki's shares. Since becoming a member of Oneworld, several Air Berlin aircraft display the global airline alliance's logo, as seen on this Boeing 737-800. An Airbus A319 on final approach at Zurich Airport in 2010, featuring a livery variant using the "Air Berlin" titles on the tail prior to the introduction of the current logo In July 2010, it was also announced that Air Berlin would join Oneworld, the global airline alliance. In preparation for joining the alliance, Air Berlin made codeshare agreements with Finnair and American Airlines (gaining access to the American market), starting with the 2010/2011 winter schedule. On 1 April 2011 Air Berlin completed the integration of LTU which it took over in August 2007. All Air Berlin Group technical services were consolidated in a new company called airberlin technik GmbH. Also in April 2011 Air Berlin underlined the importance of its Düsseldorf hub by creating a new position of North-Rhine Westphalia Regional Director. It also added new routes, more frequent flights and additional long-haul flights from Düsseldorf.
In November 2011 Air Berlin and Pegasus Airlines launched Air Berlin Turkey, aiming at the charter market between Germany and Turkey. Pegasus Airlines is the largest private airline company in Turkey and is 16.5% owned by ESAS Holding AS involved in Air Berlin.The new airline was absorbed into Pegasus Airlines on 31 March 2013. n the 3rd quarter of 2011, the turnover of the company amounted to 1.4 billion euros, an increase of 11%. However operating profit decreased by almost to 50%, around 97 million euros. As a result, a new bond to raise additional capital was issued. In November 2011, a marketing campaign was launched and further preparations to join the oneworld airline alliance were made. In November 2011 Air Berlin took over the remaining 50.1% stake in NIKI in the repayment of a loan and is now the sole owner of the company. The brand name is to be retained and Niki Lauda was given a position on the board of Air Berlin. Air Berlin announced on 19 December 2011 that the Abu Dhabi airline Etihad Airways had increased its share of Air Berlin from 2.99% to 29.1%, for a sum of 73 million euros, immediately making Etihad the company's largest shareholder. The deal supplied more cash to Air Berlin, and provided Etihad access to Air Berlin's European network. Air Berlin became a full member of Oneworld on 20 March 2012, a move that was originally announced on 2 February 2012. Austrian airline NIKI, which is also part of the Air Berlin group, joined Oneworld as an affiliate member on the same day. Air Berlin started flights between Berlin and Chicago on 23 March 2013. It cancelled the seasonal non-stop flights to Las Vegas, San Francisco and Vancouver. On 24 September 2014, Air Berlin cancelled the remaining 15 orders for their Boeing 787s as well as 18 remaining orders for Boeing 737-800s as part of their restructuring programme. It was assumed that an all-Airbus fleet is planned.
Air Berlin announced a net loss for 2014 of €376m (€316m loss in 2013). The airline’s revenues in 2014 stagnated at €4.16 billion.
In September 2015, Air Berlin phased out the last Boeing 737-700s owned by the company. The remaining aircraft of this type would operate on a wetlease basis from TUIfly until 2019. All Boeing 737-800s were to be phased out by 2016 as Air Berlin plans to focus their short- and medium-haul fleet on the Airbus A320 family to cut costs. In April 2016, Air Berlin announced a record loss of 446 million euros for 2015. The airline's revenues in 2015 decreased to €4.08 billion. Amongst the reasons considered for Air Berlin's poor performance were: crippling debt of over €800m; unclear and rapid strategy changes on routes and advertising; several CEOs over recent years; a five-year-plus delay to the new hub Berlin Brandenburg Airport; failed negotiations to profit from lower fuel prices and the overall harsh competition in the airline industry. On 28 September 2016, Air Berlin announced The new airberlin, a restructuring project including the reduction of its destinations from around 140 to 70, the focus on the Berlin and Düsseldorf hubs and on the smaller bases in Stuttgart and Munich, the closure of six other bases, the targeting of business travellers, focus on domestic German flights and on flights to Italy, Scandinavia and eastern Europe, the expansion of its long-haul network, and the loss of up to 1200 jobs. In January 2017, Air Berlin announced that for summer 2017, most leisure routes were to be either transferred to Niki or cancelled altogether and that some domestic and European city routes were to be dropped, leaving little more than the Berlin-Tegel and Düsseldorf hub operations. On 28 April 2017, a loss of € -781.9 million was announced for 2016, from a revenue of € 3.79 billion.
On 15 August 2017, Air Berlin entered insolvency procedures after the withdrawal of ongoing support from its largest shareholder, Etihad, and the resignation of board directors appointed by Etihad.
On 9 October 2017, Air Berlin announced to its staff that it would cease all remaining operations under its own AB flight numbers due to its negative financial outlook and bankruptcy proceedings. Meanwhile, all wet lease operations - mainly on behalf of Eurowings and Austrian Airlines - as well as the operations of subsidiaries Niki and LGW would be maintained until further notice.
On 12 October 2017, Lufthansa agreed to buy 81 aircraft and employ 3000 Air Berlin workers together for € 210 million, taking over the subsidiaries Niki and Luftfahrtgesellschaft Walter with a total of 1700 employees. This paid back the government loan of € 150 million to be operational for 3 months. The final long-haul flight, from Miami to Düsseldorf, was operated on 15 October 2017. Air Berlin's final flight was AB6210 from Munich to Berlin with an A320 on 27 October 2017. Joachim Hunold, who led Air Berlin from 1991 to 2011 and made it Germany's second-largest airline, was expected to be on board. On 28 October 2017 it was announced that Easyjet would absorb 1000 employees and lease 25 Airbus A320 aircraft for flights from Berlin Tegel for € 40 million.