Germany's leisure airline sector could be set for a major consolidation with Germanwings, Eurowings and TUIfly discussing a merger. If completed, the deal would create a group with a combined fleet of more than 100 aircraft and a network of about 185 destinations.
TUI Travel confirms it has signed a memorandum of understanding with Lufthansa and Eurowings majority shareholder Albrecht Knauf concerning the merger, but little else has been revealed.
The airlines will be brought together under a joint independent holding company in the proposed deal, but the companies stress that the process is at an "early stage" and there is "no guarantee" it will lead to an integrated airline group.
"What will happen next is due diligence and they will talk about the details then," says Lufthansa.
If the companies proceed with the merger plan, which will require regulatory approval, it will create a group with a fleet of 108 aircraft.
Dortmund-based Eurowings is part of Lufthansa's regional division, operating services to about 44 destinations for the German carrier. It has a fleet of 33 aircraft - 15 BAe146s and 18 Bombardier CRJ regional jets.
Knauf owns 51% of Eurowings and Lufthansa 49%, but Lufthansa holds 99.9% of Eurowings' voting rights.
Cologne-based Germanwings is Eurowings' fully-owned budget operator. It flies 27 Airbus A319s on its network of more than 60 intra-European routes.
Hanover-based TUIfly was created from the brand merger of holiday carrier Hapagfly and budget brand Hapag-Lloyd Express, although the two companies are legally still two separate entities. Together, the airlines operate 48 Boeing 737s, comprising 32 -800s, 13 -700s and three -300s, on intra-European routes to 80 destinations.