Lufthansa has emerged as the frontrunner to buy the bulk of rival Air Berlin as the German government pushes for a quick deal following the latter’s filing for bankruptcy protection.

Thomas Winkelmann, chief executive of Air Berlin, has said that the airline is in talks with three competitors and hoped to secure an agreement by the end of September.

Reports suggest that easyJet and Thomas Cook subsidiary Condor  are interested in buying some of the assets and may compete with German flag carrier Lufthansa.

Alexander Dobrindt, Germany’s transport minister, supported a deal with Lufthansa, saying the country needed a “national champion” in international aviation. He told The Times: “That is why it is urgently necessary that Lufthansa can take over significant parts of Air Berlin.”

Air Berlin, Germany’s second largest airline after Lufthansa, filed for bankruptcy protection on Tuesday after its biggest shareholder, Etihad, pulled the plug on further financial support because of years of heavy losses.

As rival airlines battle it out for Air Berlin’s take off and landing slots, the German government has made a bridging loan of €150m to keep its aircraft flying for three months and secure 7,200 jobs.

Usually when a carrier files for bankruptcy in Germany aircraft are grounded and further operations stopped.


Air Berlin files for bankruptcy protection

Comment: Arrivederci Alitalia

Etihad Airways reports $1.9bn loss