German chancellor Angela Merkel reportedly proposed "joint management" of Lufthansa and Turkish Airlines (THY) in a meeting with Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Berlin last week.

Although Erdogan told local media that he had agreed to the proposal, neither party has outlined a precise plan for cooperation.

In 1989, THY and Lufthansa set up a joint venture called SunExpress. The Antalya-based airline has expanded its fleet to 30 aircraft, according to Flightglobal’s Ascend Online database, including Frankfurt-based subsidiary SunExpress Deutschland.

Relations between the two flag carriers were further strengthened by THY’s entrance to the Star Alliance in 2008, with Lufthansa taking on an advisory role during membership negotiations.

THY chief executive Temel Kotil says he was informed of the latest discussions by Erdogan following the meeting in Berlin.

"It’s good to get such an improvement from the government side in Germany. This shows the development of Turkish Aviation in the last 10 years," he says, adding that Istanbul’s new airport - targeting an annual capacity of 100 million by 2016 - will advance the city’s hub aspirations.

"But the main decision will be taken during the annual meeting of THY," Kotil stresses. "According to the available information, Lufthansa and THY will clarify their position in the next five months."

Lufthansa spokesman Klaus Walther was more cautious in his remarks, saying: "We are always in talks about how we can further improve and intensify the cooperation between Lufthansa and Turkish Airlines for the benefit of our customers."

Merkel’s proposal comes at a time when Lufthansa is seeking to overhaul its operations with a €1.5 billion ($1.92 billion) cost-cutting programme, which contributed to an improved third quarter operating profit of €648 million. THY more than doubled its second quarter profit to $90 million.

Source: Air Transport Intelligence news