The European airline industry continues to be in a state of confusion. First International Airlines Group (owns Aer Lingus, British Airways, Iberia and Vueling) made a successful bid for the Niki division of Air Berlin and planned to operate something like 25 planes out of bases in Austria and Germany. Then a so-called consumer group filed a lawsuit that blocked this, apparently in the hope that it would make it easier for people who were owed money by Air Berlin to get it back. You can tell that the group appears to consist mainly of ambulance-chasing lawyers, because they’ve forgotten that if Niki had resumed flying, a large number of people who had booked tickets for dates in the future would have actually got their flights. Now these people simply join the queue for partial refunds with the people the lawyers represent. The pot of money available to make payments from hasn’t got any larger, indeed it is smaller, because IAG were buying Niki off the liquidators. So everyone now gets less, except the lawyers who won’t make a proportionate reduction in their fees, I’m sure.
Next Thomas Cook Group has bought five planes-worth of flying from the liquidators of Air Berlin, but plan to use one of the Air Berlin companies as the operating company, not its existing German airline business, Condor. Why isn’t yet known.
EasyJet’s purchase of a chunk of Air Berlin has gone through and they are now operating flights out of Berlin Tegel as well as their existing ones from Berlin Schoenfeld. At the moment this is mostly with subcontracted planes and crews, while ex-Air Berlin planes are refitted to EasyJet standard and the crews trained on EasyJet safety and operational procedures. There’s no effect on the operations to Rhodes for this summer, which continue to be from Schoenfeld.
In Italy, the endless Alitalia sale saga continues. Lufthansa is the preferred bidder, and now details are being worked on. Don’t expect a resolution until after the upcoming Italian General Election, as significant cutbacks and job losses are inevitable.
In the UK, British Airways has acquired the London Gatwick slots used last summer by Monarch. They have announced the flying programme, which includes an extra flight to Rhodes on Mondays. There isn’t time to get planes and crews to cover all the slots, so some flights, including this extra Rhodes one, will be subcontracted to the specialist UK charter operator Titan, who have a relationship as a BA supplier extending back for many years, and know how to operate to (and often exceed) BA’s service standards.
In all these changes, I’m hearing people saying “but I was on the such-and-such flight last year and it was full, why isn’t anyone operating it this year?”. The fact that a plane is full doesn’t mean the flight is profitable, it all depends on the cost of operation and the fares that were charged. Bear in mind that Air Berlin and Monarch actually went bankrupt, and Alitalia only avoids bankruptcy by loans from the Italian government, so quite clearly even their full flights weren’t actually profitable. Well run airlines (which obviously doesn’t include these three) also cull full flights because they believe they can make more money elsewhere with the same planes and crews.
So here’s the updated flight schedule from the UK to Rhodes and Kos for summer 2018, no doubt there will be even more changes in a few weeks when the final slot details for charter and semi-charter flights are released.
Expect the listings for several more countries (though not Germany, I’m afraid) to appear this week.