Britain's easyJet expands in Germany with Air Berlin deal

By ReutersMarketsReuters

BERLIN, Oct 27 (Reuters) - EasyJet said it agreed to buy part of Air Berlin's operations at Berlin Tegel airport, ending uncertainty over the fate of the failed airline's remaining assets and strengthening the British carrier's position in Germany.

EasyJet said on Friday it would enter into leases for up to 25 A320 aircraft for 40 million euros ($46.43 million) and acquire take-off and landing slots, making the announcement shortly after Air Berlin's final ever flight landed at Tegel.

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"This will enable easyJet to operate the leading short haul network at Tegel connecting passengers to and from destinations across Germany and the rest of Europe," easyJet said in a statement.

The deal will make easyJet, which currently operates only out of Berlin Schoenefeld airport, the leading carrier in the German capital, it said.

Air Berlin was founded nearly 40 years ago and carried around 30 million passengers a year. It was beloved among Germans for its flights to holiday island Mallorca and also for the chocolate hearts it gives out after each flight, but filed for administration in August after years of losses.

Lufthansa had already agreed to take over most of Air Berlin's operations two weeks ago, while talks had continued with easyJet.

But this week a deal was thrown into doubt, with Condor, owned by Thomas Cook, also being brought into talks with Air Berlin.

EasyJet said it would run a reduced timetable at Tegel during the winter, but would aim for a complete summer schedule in 2018.

The British budget airline added it would look to recruit around 1,000 Air Berlin pilots and cabin crew, on local contracts.

($1 = 0.8615 euros) (Reporting by Victoria Bryan in Berlin, Alistair Smout in London and Parikshit Mishra in Bengaluru; Editing by David Gregorio and Andrew Hay)