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​LHT mulls Berlin MRO options amid airport 'uncertainties'

Lufthansa Technik (LHT) is evaluating options for its future presence in Berlin as its existing Schonefeld site needs to be vacated in 2021.

The facility is located east of the terminal at the troubled Brandenburg airport site, in an area earmarked for the planned expansion of the long-delayed new gateway, which is still not open.

It is one of three sites the maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) provider is currently operating in Berlin – the other being a new-build hangar west of the Brandenburg terminal and a legacy hangar at the city's Tegel airport.

All three sites are in operation and can each accommodate four single-aisle aircraft.

The Schonefeld facility – originally built to service the aircraft of former East German flag carrier Interflug – conducts line maintenance and light C-checks for Airbus A320-family jets and Boeing 737s.

Additionally, the site includes a repair shop specialising in cleaning and refurbishing engine pipes.

LHT says it recently extended the lease on the Schonefeld site with Berlin's airport operator FBB until March 2021, but notes that a further extension is not possible.

FBB has a plan to construct an additional passenger terminal on the site and extend the existing terminal's north pier in the 2022-2025 timeframe.

The engine pipe repair shop – employing around 60 of the Schonefeld facility's 250 staff– will be shut down as a result of the move.

LHT says talks with employee representatives have been taking place for some time, and it intends to manage the staff reduction through early retirements and other measures, without compulsory redundancies.

What happens to the Schonefeld airframe maintenance operations has not been decided, LHT says.

It acknowledges that a closure of the hangars in Schonefeld and Tegel – the latter airport is set to be closed once Brandenburg becomes operational, under the latest schedule, in 2020 – will reduce LHT's hangar capacity in the capital by two-thirds, to four bays.

However, the company argues it is unable to make plans for its future footprint in Berlin due to continuing "uncertainties" surrounding the city's future airport set-up and LHT's business outlook in the capital.

EasyJet is a third-party maintenance customer and LHT completes checks on the budget carrier's fleet in Berlin as well as elsewhere in the MRO provider's network.

LHT says an option to lease more land for additional maintenance facilities at Brandenburg airport expired at the end of 2018, and that it would welcome a decision to extend that option.

Next to LHT's existing facility at Brandenburg is a larger new-build hangar that was originally constructed to maintain aircraft for defunct carrier Air Berlin.

That facility is now used by Germania's engineering arm and Lufthansa Bombardier Aviation Services, a business jet support joint venture between LHT and the Canadian airframer.

Earlier this month, Lufthansa Group chief executive Carsten Spohr suggested that the government's decision to close Tegel once Brandenburg airport becomes operational should be re-examined.

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