Air Berlin says its takeover of LTU, revealed last week, will create Europe's fourth-largest airline group in terms of traffic, with a combined fleet approaching 120 aircraft.
Air Berlin and LTU carried a total of 22.1 million passengers last year, and the new owner says the move was been driven not only by the prospect of branching into long-haul operations, but by the chance to establish a stronger presence at Düsseldorf airport, where LTU is based. "We would not have been able to grow at this airport organically owing to the limitation of departure slots," says Air Berlin chief Joachim Hunold.
LTU operates 11 Airbus A330s to several long-haul holiday markets, and has a short-haul fleet, comprising 15 A320 family aircraft, serving European charter routes. LTU will retain its name for the foreseeable future, while its routes will be integrated into Air Berlin's European network.
Air Berlin will also acquire a 49% shareholding in Swiss carrier Belair, owned by tour operator Hotelplan, to enable it to increase its activities in the Swiss market. Belair has a fleet of three aircraft - a Boeing 767-300ER and two 757-200s - and serves mainly Mediterranean destinations.
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LTU, which has 11 A330s for long-haul routes, will retain its identity