Berlin - Germany's biggest airline Lufthansa will buy up more than half of the aircraft of its bankrupt competitor Air Berlin, chief executive Carsten Spohr says on Thursday, 12 October.
On a "great day" for the Frankfurt-based carrier, it will sign a contract to buy 81 of Air Berlin's 144 planes and take on 3 000 of its 8 500 staff at noon on Thursday, Spohr says, which is the last day for bidders, Lufthansa and Easyjet, to close their hoped-for deals.
So far there has been no sign of an agreement between Air Berlin and Easyjet for remaining parts of the business, nor has Lufthansa announced how much it will pay under the deal.
German media have reported that it could pay as much as 300 million euros ($356 million) for around 80 planes - a figure Spohr cited as the largest competition authorities would accept Lufthansa grabbing.
The agreement will need a green light from European authorities in a process that could take "several weeks or months," Air Berlin chief executive Thomas Winkelmann says.
Meanwhile, unions have complained that many of Air Berlin's staff face an uncertain future, with no guarantee they will find work with the buyer firms once the company is wound up - despite promises when talks with Lufthansa and Easyjet began that most would find jobs with the bidders.
Air Berlin declared bankruptcy in August following years of losses and the decision of its biggest shareholder, Gulf airline Etihad, to cease financing.
Its aircraft have been kept aloft by a 150-million-euro ($178 million) emergency loan from the German government while details of the breakup were worked out.
But the pressure was on to reach a deal this week, as Air Berlin's planes will no longer be allowed to fly after 28 October under insolvency rules.
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