[BERLIN] Germany's second largest carrier Air Berlin is hoping more long-haul routes and business customers will help it restore profitability while its cuts back on less profitable flights.
The airline, 29 per cent owned by Abu Dhabi-based Etihad, is trying to return to profit after years of losses and new chief executive Stefan Pichler has been scrutinising the carrier's network and fleet in a bid to bring costs down.
Mr Pichler said the carrier aimed to achieve a turnaround"within the next 12 to 18 months" and that the new strategy should boost operating profits by 310 million euros (S$472 million) by the end of 2018.
He said the process will be one of gradual change. "I'm not pulling any rabbits out of the hat here," he told journalists in Berlin, speaking after the group reported improved profits in the third quarter.
Mr Pichler said he wants to double the airline's share of the market for business customers in the next three years. The company later declined to give details on its current market share.
Mr Pichler highlighted that Air Berlin's cost base was lower than that of rivals such as Lufthansa or Air France and said the carrier will reduce frequencies on less profitable routes, such as those to Scandinavia. It will also offer more flights to the United States, such as Boston, San Francisco and Dallas, in a bid to attract both tourists and business customers.
The larger A330 planes it normally uses on its popular route to Majorca will be refurbished with new business class seats and shifted to long-haul routes from next summer.
But that doesn't mean fewer flights to the Balearic island. Air Berlin said it wanted to defend its market leading position and would increase those flights by 9 per cent next summer, meaning it will operate 500 flights a week from Germany, Austria and Switzerland.
Overall, capacity will stay stable next year and the airline's fleet will also be largely unchanged at around 145 planes.