A decision expected yesterday on the future of bankrupt Air Berlin has turned into a new round of uncertainty as the airline announced it would continue negotiations with two of the 16 bidders—Lufthansa and EasyJet.
The negotiations, which the airline says it hopes can be completed by mid-October, center around the sale of planes, plane leases and landing rights. There were a total of 16 bidders, but Lufthansa has been expected to carry off most of the remains.
In the meantime, Air Berlin will stop its longhaul flights as of Oct. 15 and ground its three A330s. At the end of October, it will cut back its domestic schedule, hoping to stay alive long enough to complete the deals. It has been operating for several months on an emergency government bridge loan that will soon run out.
It wants to add some 70 of the airline's planes, especially to its discount Eurowings subsidiary. EasyJet is interested in 30-40 planes and Berlin landing slots. Despite claims by management that 80% of Air Berlin's employees would not lose employment, pilots and others are hugely skeptical of that.
There is also discontent from rival bidders, who have felt that the process was set up in a way that favored Lufthansa. Irish-based Ryanair, in fact, declined to bid, echoing the claims of favoritism toward Lufthansa.