Lufthansa’s lower cost affiliate Eurowings has initiated talks with its various unions about merging its various air operator’s certificates (AOCs) to gain efficiencies after a period of strong growth.

“Without our platform model we would not be where we are today,” Eurowings CEO Thorsten Dirks said on the sidelines of the ITB tourism fair in Berlin March 7. “But now we want to tackle the issue” [of reducing complexity].

Eurowings has grown fast over the past two years and accelerated its growth last year following the airberlin bankruptcy. The carrier added 77 aircraft and 3,000 staff in 2018, but created a complex mix of affiliated airlines operating under the Eurowings brand.

In Germany alone Sun Express, Brussels Airlines, Eurowings Europe, Eurowings GmbH, Germanwings and Luftfahrtgesellschaft Walter (LGW) are all flying on behalf of the airline, not included are wet leases such as a seven aircraft TUIfly operation.

LGW has been sold to logistics specialist Zeitfracht, but will continue providing wet-lease services to Eurowings using a fleet of Bombardier Dash-8s. Eurowings could try to merge Eurowings GmbH and Germanwings and possibly Brussels Airlines’ German affiliate into one unit.

The plans have been welcomed by pilot union Vereinigung Cockpit (VC) in principle. “We see opportunities for the cockpit staff in such a fundamental strategic change,” VC wrote in an internal memo.

The process of simplifying its operating processes nonetheless is expected to take years to complete. The current collective bargaining agreement for Lufthansa’s mainline pilots expires in 2022 and is due for renewal negotiations in 2021. While Eurowings pilots are not included, Germanwings’ cockpit crews are. The unit was originally planned to have been shut down by now but was kept longer to enable the group to grow faster.

The possible acquisition of parts of Thomas Cook’s leisure airline Condor may make the set-up more complex again, however. Industry sources say Lufthansa and Eurowings are highly interested in the long-haul part of Condor, although Dirks only said the companies want to “play an active part in consolidation.” Observers note a decision about the sale of Thomas Cook’s airline division will not come before the summer at the earliest. Competition authorities are likely to limit what Eurowings can pick up.

Jens Flottau,