Air Berlin is wasting no time in developing its long-haul network following the acquisition of German charter operator LTU earlier this year.

The hybrid low-cost/charter carrier has unveiled plans to launch flights to Beijing and Shanghai from Dusseldorf in May 2008. Air Berlin also plans to launch services to the USA in November 2008. It says it will focus on business destinations while new subsidiary LTU will operate leisure transatlantic routes.

Since integrating into the Air Berlin group, LTU has continued to fly a mix of business and leisure routes. But Air Berlin says "in the near future" it will operate all of LTU's medium- and long-haul business flights while LTU flights to leisure destinations will continue to operate under the LTU brand. LTU recently applied to the US authorities for permission to place Air Berlin's code on its US services, which include New York and several destinations in Florida.

Supporting its new transatlantic network, Air Berlin has forged an alliance with an undisclosed US major. It says it will assess other potential codeshare partnerships as the long-haul business expands.

Further accelerating the expansion of its new long-haul network, Air Berlin earlier this year also agreed to acquire Condor Airlines, which operates to holiday destinations such as Thailand, Mexico, Turkey and the UAE. The merger is currently being examined by Germany's cartel office, but is expected to be given the green light by competition authorities in early 2008.

Air Berlin, which has 25 Boeing 787s on order for delivery from 2013, is also evaluating several new long-haul markets in the east and west. "India could also be a mid-term goal for Air Berlin," it says. The carrier plans to use the extensive domestic network of another new subsidiary, dba, as a feeder for its new long-haul operations.

Source: Airline Business