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Air Berlin logo

1978–1989: First years of air charter operations

Original Air Berlin USA logo
In 1978, former Pan Am pilot Kim Lundgren and former Modern Air Transport general manager John D. MacDonald formed Air Berlin as a US supplemental carrier and incorporated it under the name Air Berlin, Inc. in Oregon, USA, trading as Air Berlin USA and headquartered in Miami, Florida. This was due to West Berlin's special legal status during the Cold War era (8 May 1945 – 2 October 1990), which meant that all air traffic to and from the city was restricted to airlines of the three Western victorious powers of World War II, i.e. only those headquartered in the US, UK and France. In addition, all flightdeck crew (pilots, flight engineers and navigators) on these flights through the Allied air corridors had to be citizens of one of these states.[8]
Air Berlin's first revenue flight (from Berlin to Palma de Mallorca) took place on 28 April 1979, with its first aircraft being a Boeing 707–320, which had been acquired from TWA.[9] Operating from Berlin-Tegel Airport, the airline was assigned to fulfill lucrative charter contracts operating a series of short to medium-haul IT charter flights to the Mediterranean and the Canary Islands on behalf of Berliner Flug Ring, at that time West Berlin's leading package tour operator.[10] Air Berlin had taken over this contract from Aeroamerica, another US supplemental carrier, which was based at Berlin Tegel from 1974 to 1979.[10] Additionally, Air Berlin operated weekly scheduled service from Tegel via Brussels to Orlando, during a brief period in the early 1980s.[11]
In the spring of 1981, Air Berlin's original two Boeing 707 aircraft were replaced by the more modern Boeing 737–200 Adv type, which was more appropriate for the airline's IT operations from Berlin to the Mediterranean region, especially to Majorca (where it is now the largest airline operating there).[12]
In 1985, Air Berlin moved its headquarteres to Berlin.[13] Air Berlin transitioned to a fleet entirely composed of brand-new Boeing 737-300 and 737–400 aircraft during the late 1980s.[14] This coincided with the introduction of a new livery, which remained relatively unchanged until 2007.[14]
[edit]1990–1999: Growth after German reunification
On 2 October 1990, the eve of Germany's reunification (which led to the end of Berlin's special status), the airline was renamed Air Berlin, and German investors acquired a majority stake in the company with Joachim Hunold, a former LTU manager, becoming CEO, a position he still holds. Some time later, on 16 April 1991, the airline was re-registered under German law and renamed Air Berlin GmbH & Co. Luftverkehrs KG.[15][15][16] Air Berlin joined IATA, the company also moved away from charters and towards scheduled flights, including important European business centres (which had been served since 1997).
[edit]2000–2006: Air Berlin becomes Germany’s second largest airline

Air Berlin logo used until 2007

A Boeing 737-800 in the livery used until 2007.
In January 2004, Air Berlin announced it would cooperate with Niki, a Vienna-based airline.[15] As part of the deal, Air Berlin took a 24% stake in Niki.
In 2005, a partnership agreement with Germania was signed. It saw Air Berlin leasing some of Germania's aircraft and crew, and Germania became almost exclusively a charter airline. Germania was to have been associated with Air Berlin under a management contract. However, the contract was not signed. At the beginning of March 2008 Germania’s joint owners could not reach agreement about the takeover by Air Berlin, so Germania remained an independent airline.

As seen on this Airbus A319, some aircraft taken over from LTU and Germania were painted in an interim livery.
In 2006, Air Berlin successfully completed an initial public offering (IPO) on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange. Originally scheduled for 5 May 2006, it was postponed until 11 May 2006. The company cited recent rises in fuel costs and other market pressures leading to limited of investor demand and reduced the initial share-price range from 15.0–17.5 euros to 11.5–14.5 euros and the stock opened at €12.0, selling a total of 42.5 million shares. Of these, 19.6 million were new shares increasing capital in the company, and the remainder to repay loans extended by the original shareholders and invested in the company earlier in 2006. After the IPO, the company claimed to have over 400 million euros in cash to fund further expansion, including aircraft purchases.[17]
In August 2006, Air Berlin announced that it had acquired 100% of the shares in German domestic airline dba.[18] Flight operations at dba were continued as a fully owned subsidiary of Air Berlin until 14 November 2008, when the dba brand was discontinued due to staff strikes. (dba staff were subsequently offered positions with Air Berlin).
On 28 November 2006, aircraft manufacturer Boeing announced an Air Berlin order of 60 Boeing 737-800 aircraft, as well as for 15 aircraft of the smaller Boeing 737-700 variant. The combined value of these 75 airplanes would be 5.1 billion dollars at then list prices. Delivery started in 2007.[19] All of these aircraft will be equipped with blended winglets, which significantly improve fuel efficiency.
[edit]2007–2009: Takeover of LTU and TUIfly City route networks

Air Berlin introduced the current livery (seen here on a Boeing 737-700) in 2007.
In March 2007, Air Berlin took over German leisure airline LTU, thereby gaining access to the long-haul market and becoming the fourth largest airline group in Europe in terms of passenger traffic. This deal lead to the introduction of Airbus A321 and Airbus A330 aircraft into the Air Berlin fleet. The merger of the LTU operations, aircraft and crew was completed on 1 May 2009, when the LTU brand was dicontinued.
On 7 July 2007, Air Berlin announced an order for 25 modern Boeing 787–8 Dreamliner longhaul aircraft, with further options and purchase rights.[20] Three additional aircraft of this type will be leased from ILFC. Entry into service is projected for 2011.
On 21 August 2007, Air Berlin acquired a 49 percent shareholding in Swiss charter airline Belair, the remainder being owned by tour operator Hotelplan.[21] Following the deal, Belair's longhaul business was shut down, and the fleet replaced by Airbus A320 family aircraft operating scheduled flights on behalf of Air Berlin as well as charter flights for Hotelplan.
On 20 September 2007, Air Berlin announced it intended to buy its direct competitor Condor in a deal that saw Condor's owner, the Thomas Cook Group, taking a 30% stake in Air Berlin.[22] A variety of considerations, including the rapidly increasing price of jet fuel, led to the abandonment of the deal in July 2008.
In January 2008 Air Berlin introduced a new logo together with a new corporate design. The logo is a white oval shape on a red background (to suggest an aircraft window) where the letter “a” is depicted by a white circle and two white stylised wings. The Air Berlin text element is now in lower case and written as one word. Sometimes the slogan “Your Airline” also features as part of the logo.[23]
Shareholder structure
quota Shareholders
approx. 40 % diversified holdings
16,48 % ESAS Holding A.S. (Turkey)
7,51 % Hans-Joachim Knieps
6,85 % Leibniz-Service GmbH / TUI Travel PLC
5,97 % Ringerike GmbH & Co. Luftfahrtbeteiligung
Metolius Foundation
3,82 % Werner Huehn
3,70 % JPMorgan Chase & Co.
2,93 % Rudolf Schulte
2,93 % Severin Schulte
2,64 % Joachim Hunold, CEO Air Berlin PLC
2,39 % Moab Investments Ltd.
1,58 % Johannes Zurnieden, Chairman Air Berlin PLC
1,40 % Heinz-Peter Schlüter
as at: 31 December 2010[24]
In June 2008, CEO Joachim Hunold caused a quarrel with the Catalan People, when he claimed [25] in an article included in Air Berlin's inflight magazine that the government of the Balearic Islands was trying to impose the use of Catalan onboard of Air Berlin flights from and to Majorca. He claimed that Air Berlin was an international airline and therefore would not have to use Catalan. Hunold went on to criticise the language policy in Catalonia and the Balearic Islands, claiming that at the time many children could not speak any Spanish.[26] The Balearic Islands' socialist President, Francesc Antich, explained that his government had simply sent a letter to encourage airlines operating in the Balearic Islands to include Catalan among the languages used for onboard announcements.[27] On 18 June of the same year, Air Berlin announced that it would reduce its long-haul services by 13 percent, as well as cut 10 percent of services on the domestic market in an effort to increase profitability.[28]
In January 2009 Air Berlin started a co-operation with Hainan Airlines, China’s fourth-largest airline. Both airlines offer jointly market flights between Berlin and Beijing. The code-share flights are sold on a reciprocal basis and operated under the relevant airline’s own flight number.[29]
At the end of March 2009, a strategic partnership agreement with TUI Travel was signed, which is based on a cross ownership of Air Berlin and its direct competitor TUIfly each purchases 9.9 percent of the other's shares.[30] Following this deal, Air Berlin took over all German domestic TUIfly routes, as well as those to Italy, Croatia and Austria. Also, all of Tuifly's Boeing 737-700 aircraft were merged into Air Berlin's fleet. Further route shifts will see TUIfly abandoning all scheduled flights and relying exclusively on the charter business.[31]
In March 2009 ESAS Holding bought approximately 15 per cent of the voting shares in Air Berlin PLC. The Federal Cartel Office in Bonn has notified Air Berlin PLC & Co. Luftverkehrs KG that it has no objections to the Turkish company ESAS Holding A.S. acquiring a stake in the airline.[32]
On 28 September 2009, Air Berlin announced it would cooperate with Pegasus Airlines, thus allowing its customers access to more destinations and flights to and within Turkey on a codeshare-like basis.[33]
In October 2009 Air Berlin entered into cooperation with Bangkok Airways. Air Berlin offers passengers the flights operated by Bangkok Airways under its own flight number.[34]
Air Berlin Group
group interest
LTU 100 %
Air Berlin Technik 100 %
Binoli Reiseplattform 49 %
Belair 100 %
Niki 49,9 %
[edit]2010-2011: Air Berlin to join Oneworld
In April 2010 expanded its codeshare arrangements with Russia’s S7 Airlines. The strategic cooperation between Air Berlin and S7 Airlines has been in place since October 2008. New services include codeshare flights via Moscow to destinations such as Irkutsk, Perm and Rostov.[35]
In July 2010 Air Berlin PLC announced an increase in its shareholding in Niki. Following the fulfilment of the required conditions, the agreements notarized on 17 February 2010 have been implemented. Air Berlin PLC & Co. Luftverkehrs KG indirectly acquired 25.9% of the shares in Niki Luftfahrt GmbH form the Privatstiftung Lauda (private Lauda foundation) and has thereby increased its current shareholding in Niki Luftfahrt GmbH from 24% to 49.9%. In connection with the increase of its shareholding, Air Berlin PLC & Co. Luftverkehrs KG will grant the private Lauda foundation a 40.5 million-euro loan. The private foundation has the option to repay the loan in three years with cash or through the transfer to the remaining 50.1% of Niki Luftfahrt GmbH´s shares.[36]
Wikinews has related news: Air Berlin to code-share with American Airlines and Finnair by November
In July 2010, it was also announced that Air Berlin would be joining the global airline alliance Oneworld.[37] Full membership is planned for the start of 2012.[38] In preparation for joining the alliance, Air Berlin has been offering flights under codeshare agreements with American Airlines and Finnair since its 2010/2011 winter schedule came into force. Its cooperation with American Airlines means that Air Berlin passengers gain access to the important American market whilst it also offers codeshare flights with Finnair to Helsinki and within Europe.[39]
Air Berlin PLC founded Follow Me Entertainment GmbH in September 2010 as a joint venture with kick-media ag. This joint venture company has been formed for the individual marketing of image and sound media, books, games as well as events, concerts, tournaments and sponsoring.[40]
The foundations were laid for the first maintenance hangar at Berlin-Brandenburg International Airport (BBI) on 21 March 2011. Air Berlin, which will use the hangar together with Germania as from June 2012, has thus doubled the maintenance capacity of Air Berlin Technik at its Berlin site.[41]
On 1 April 2011 Air Berlin completed the full integration of LTU which it took over in August 2007. There is now only one flight schedule and all the technical services of the Air Berlin Group have been merged into a new company "airberlin technik GmbH".[42] Also in April 2011 Air Berlin underlined the importance of its Düsseldorf hub by creating a new position of "Regional Director North-Rhine Westphalia". With new routes, more frequent flights and additional long-haul flights, Air Berlin is expanding the flights it offers from Düsseldorf.[43]

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