Air Berlin will drop four of the eight routes it serves from London and pull out of Manchester after announcing a raft of capacity cuts as it refocuses on four major hub airports outside the UK.
The cuts follow a second quarter loss that Air Berlin blamed on a combination of the high oil price, reduced demand for North Africa following the ‘Arab spring’ and the impact of the German equivalent of air passenger duty.
Air Berlin chief executive Joachim Hunold stood down yestreday after announcing the cuts, saying: “A change of leadership will accelerate our newly launched ‘shape and size’ programme.”
The carrier will cease flying from Gatwick to Hanover and from Stansted to Hanover, Munster and Paderborn. It will also end its single Manchester service to Paderborn. However, the airline will maintain its Gatwick-Nuremberg, Stansted-Dusseldorf, Stansted-Nuremberg and Stansted-Salzburg services.
Air Berlin will withdraw from several regional airports around Europe and focus on developing its growing hubs at Berlin, Dusseldorf, Palma de Mallorca and, from the autumn, Vienna. It will axe eight aircraft from its fleet.
The second-biggest German-based airline after Lufthansa, Air Berlin is a partner of British Airways and a potential candidate for acquisition by BA parent company International Airlines Group (IAG) run by former BA head Willie Walsh. However, it faces severe competition between the UK and Germany from easyJet and Ryanair.
Air Berlin reported a quarterly loss of euro32 million (£28 million) on a turnover of euro1.12 billion (almost £1 billion).
Germany introduced an aviation tax in January. However, the German economy has boomed until recently and both the business and leisure travel markets have been buoyant.
Hunold said: “The tax is causing a dramatic distortion of competition. We have to pay almost four times as much as our largest competitor.” He added that the company had been unable to pass on the increased cost of fuel to customers.
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