September 19, 2017 / 11:26 AM / in a month

Rivals add Caribbean capacity to fill Air Berlin gaps

A Bombardier Dash 8 Q400 aircraft of German carrier AirBerlin takes off from Duesseldorf airport towards Salzburg, Austria, in Duesseldorf, Germany, September 12, 2017. REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay

BERLIN (Reuters) - Airlines Condor and Eurowings (LHAG.DE) plan to provide flights to the Caribbean from Duesseldorf, meeting demand from Germans seeking winter sunshine after cancellations by insolvent Air Berlin (AB1.DE).

Air Berlin filed for bankruptcy protection in August after major shareholder Etihad pulled the plug on funding. It has been forced to scrap long-haul flights from its two bases of Duesseldorf and Berlin after a leasing company asked for its planes to be returned.

Condor, part of Britain’s Thomas Cook Group (TCG.L), said it was starting flights to destinations in the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Jamaica and Barbados from Duesseldorf from Nov. 1. Condor said it was leasing an A330 plane with crew in order to be able to offer the routes.

The cancellation of the Air Berlin routes has left tour operators seeking an airline to take customers on package holidays that have already been booked.

“We did all we could to find a solution as quickly as possible to keep holiday traffic in the air,” Condor CEO Ralf Teckentrup said in a statement.

Lufthansa’s budget unit Eurowings said it would start flights to the Dominican Republic, Cuba and Mexico from Nov. 8, making Duesseldorf only the second airport from which it offers long-haul flights.

Eurowings, already the market leader at Duesseldorf with its short-haul routes, currently flies long-haul from Cologne and plans to start intercontinental tourist routes from Munich next year.

Both Condor and Lufthansa are among airlines interested in taking on parts of Air Berlin’s business as part of a carve-up of the company.

Air Berlin’s slots at Duesseldorf, in Germany’s most populous region, are seen as some of the airline’s most attractive assets for potential bidders.

By taking over parts of Air Berlin, bidders could get access to more take-off and landing slots at Duesseldorf, other than the ones already surrendered on the long-haul routes.

Reporting by Victoria Bryan; Editing by Keith Weir

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