Lufthansa to acquire majority of insolvent Air Berlin

Frankfurt-based Lufthansa will sign a contract to buy 81 of Air Berlin’s 144 planes and take on 3,000 of its 8,500 staff

Lufthansa would be interested if there was an opportunity to create a new Alitalia, the German flagship carrier's Chief Executive Carsten Spohr said on Thursday.

Spohr said, "Today is a big day, which we will seal in a few hours with a signature".

German airline Air Berlin filed for bankruptcy on August 15 after its main shareholder, Etihad, said it would not give further financial support.

Apart from Lufthansa, British budget carrier Easyjet was seen as the other major contender to take over the embattled airline, or parts of the group, which has more than 8,000 employees, 140 aircraft and key airport landing slots.

Air Berlin has since late September been negotiating exclusively with Lufthansa and United Kingdom -based low-priced rival EasyJet. The airline carried some 80,000 people a day mostly on short-haul destinations. "The deal with Lufthansa is done, there is agreement", an inside source told Reuters on Wednesday. The deal comes only a day after Lufthansa pilots ended a dispute over pay and conditions stretching back over a year, which had involved repeated strike action and the loss of customer confidence.

The details of the purchase agreement have yet to be revealed.

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