Air Berlin CEO Steps Down

THE HEAD and founder of German carrier Air Berlin, Joachim Hunold, stepped down from his post as CEO on September 1.  The move coincided with the airline proposing to slash routes and reduce its fleet size in a bid to drive down costs – this follows the announcement of a second quarter loss of over €32 million.
Hunold, who will remain with the carrier as a non-executive director, stated: “I have come to the conclusion that a change of leadership will accelerate our newly launched ‘Shape & Size’ programme.”  Air Berlin board member Hartmut Mehdorn, who was chairman of German national rail company Deutsche Bahn AG until May 2009, has been installed as the interim CEO in a move which resulted in company shares increasing by more than 4% on the German stock exchange.
After enduring a difficult spell, the carrier will cut more than a million seats of capacity and remove eight aircraft from its fleet by the end of the year.  Smaller, regional airports will be the hardest hit with the carrier confirming that it will concentrate activities from its established hubs in Berlin, Düsseldorf, Palma de Mallorca and Vienna.
The cost-cutting exercise will result in services to the UK, particularly Manchester and London, being significantly reduced.  Among the routes to be cut are Münster/Osnabrück to London, Hanover to London, and Paderborn to both London and Manchester.  Air Berlin will also terminate flights from Germany to St Petersburg, Cairo, Paris and Naples.
The carrier has attributed its lack of profitability to increases in tax and fuel prices, while the civil unrest in North Africa resulted in the prolonged suspension of the airline’s usual 80 weekly flights and was calculated to have cost the airline €20 million alone.