21 AUGUST 2017
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As if being seen to be going into administration isn’t bad enough, airberlin now finds itself in an unedifying war of words with Ryanair on one hand and, on the other, a wealthy entrepreneur, Hans Woehrl, who wants to buy the company to avoid “Lufthansa having a monopoly in Germany”.
The two are linked by the accusation levelled by Ryanair at the EU and the German authorities that the airberlin crisis is a “manufactured insolvency” designed to allow airberlin’s assets to be carved up while excluding major competitors.
It remains to be seen whether Woehrl is serious in his approach, but a spokeswoman for his company – INTRO-Verwaltungs GmbH – told Reuters he was planning a bid because he believed buying airberlin was the only way to avoid the creation of a German airline monopoly with Lufthansa as the only major player.
“No offer for airberlin has been submitted so far because there are concerns that the loan by the government is meant to deliberately promote a monopoly structure that seeks to block offers from investors right from the start,” the spokeswoman added.
Airberlin is said to have been in preliminary talks with a total of three aviation firms, including Lufthansa, over the sale of its assets. One source has said easyJet was also part of the negotiations, while Thomas Cook’s German airline Condor said it was ready to play “an active role” in airberlin’s restructuring, without being more specific.
Airberlin is intertwined with the disaster that is Berlin’s 20th-century airport history. The airline was listed on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange in 2006, at the point construction was beginning of the new Berlin Brandenburg Airport.
As Germany’s second largest air carrier, airberlin would have been in a prime position to maximise expansion. As of today, nobody knows when Brandenburg will open and to make matters worse the city-centre airport, Tempelhof, was forced to close in 2008, on the assumption the new hub was well on its way.
As we said at the beginning, unedifying is the word that springs to mind and unedifying it is, the more so since it has all come to light in the same week a new survey says the public, beset by delays, failures in customer service and lack of communication, are rapidly losing patience with airlines.
Any sort of monopoly cannot help but make the situation worse. The breadth of choice is already narrowing dramatically, especially in the US, where the market has come to be dominated by the Big Three – American, Delta and United. We don’t need any more Big Brothers in Europe.
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