Deutsche Lufthansa AG said “everything that is in the interest of our customers” is possible after newspaper Haberturk reported the German carrier is in talks with Turkish Airlines over a possible merger.
Lufthansa, Europe’s second-biggest airline, is in “constant dialogue” with Turk Hava Yollari, as it is formally known, to improve and intensify the two companies’ co-operation, Klaus Walther, a Frankfurt-based Lufthansa spokesman, said by telephone, declining to confirm or deny whether a merger was a possibility.
Discussions started after Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and German Chancellor Angela Merkel raised the topic of cooperation by the carriers in Germany last week, Haberturk said today, without saying where it got the information. Sabah, another Turkish newspaper, also reported today a merger is being talked about. Neither report said where it got the information.
“During our Germany trip, Merkel offered me this: ‘Let’s get Lufthansa and Turkish Airlines into joint operation,” Erdogan was quoted as saying by the state-owned Anatolia news agency. “I said: ‘Okay. This is already among our projects and God willing our Turkish Airlines and Lufthansa can take a joint step like that.’”
Speaking in Turkish, Erdogan used the word “isletmecilik” to refer to the joint project, which can be translated as either “management” or “operation.”
Turkish Airlines Chief Executive Officer Temel Kotil said the carriers have had a joint business in Antalya since 1989, called SunExpress, and are both members of the Star Alliance.
“We have had a cooperation in place for years and we are working on ways to find how we can better serve our passengers,” Kotil said in an emailed reply to questions from Bloomberg News. “We are in constant communication on how to develop these.”
Last month, Lufthansa’s biggest European competitors both sealed arrangements to secure closer co-operation with Middle Eastern carriers. Air France-KLM Group agreed to start code-sharing with Etihad Airways, the third-biggest Persian Gulf airline, while Qatar Airways Ltd. said it would join International Consolidated Airlines Group SA’s Oneworld alliance within 18 months.
Qatar Chief Executive Officer Akbar Al Baker said he chose Oneworld over Lufthansa’s Star Alliance since the German airline was so hostile to the growth of Gulf carriers.