Supporting the theory that airlines that fool around with grammar by using infantile lower or mixed case branding in their titles are doomed, airberlin has announced a humiliating restructuring in which it has given a large part of its fleet to arch rival Lufthansa in a short term lease.
In fact, the diminutively titled German carrier has actually reduced its fleet by half, and its workforce by only 15 percent, as the Etihad Airways Partner tries what might be seen as a desperate attempt at medium term survival by throwing itself at the mercy of the dominant national carrier.
The extent of the problem, and the painful if rather novel package of solutions being undertaken, is spelled out in excruciating detail in this Bloomberg report.
The Australian market saw broadly similar pressures destroy Ansett, but the airline was first gutted and abandoned by Air NZ in 2001 and finally went out of business, as Ansett Mark II in 2002 without anyone ever suggesting it give up its A320s to Qantas.
The German air travel market is similarly at the mercy of the rise of low cost brands like Ryanair, easyJet and Wizz and it seems, the new and customer punishing remake of British Airways, as Qantas and Ansett were to the onset of Impulse and Virgin Blue.
airberlin’s course of action resembles in part the actions of Impulse in selling itself to Qantas in 2001, creating a low cost unit within Qantas that was ultimately developed into Jetstar three years later.
What do these antics mean for visitors or business travellers visiting Germany and much of the EC? Not much. Anyone who knows their way around the continent will go for faster city-to-city options on low cost carriers with at least as much if not more legroom than now found in Lufthansa and British Airways anyhow, and where possible, catch a train, even an ordinary train, from city centre to city centre without having to put up with any airport hassles.
What has happened to airberlin is just a reminder that airlines that lose the plot, and their grammatical capitalisation, can pay a high price for their carelessness.