* Air Berlin in push to save 8,000 German jobs
* Key shareholder Etihad abandons talks with TUI on leisure
* Prospective partner Lufthansa said Air Berlin's debt a
(Adds background on Air Berlin's problems, Etihad, Lufthansa)
FRANKFURT, June 8 Ailing German airline Air
Berlin said on Thursday it has asked the German states
of North-Rhine Westphalia (NRW) and Berlin to consider possible
loan guarantees amid signs of waning support from Etihad
Airways, its biggest shareholder.
Abu Dhabi-owned Etihad, which has thrown Air Berlin several
life lines over the years, earlier on Thursday said it had
pulled out of a prospective deal to combine Air Berlin's holiday
flight business Niki with tour operator TUI Group's
own carrier TUIfly.
Bigger German rival Lufthansa, which last year
agreed to lease 38 crewed planes from Air Berlin, has held talks
recently with the Abu Dhabi government about taking part in
salvaging the remaining Air Berlin business but said its debt
was a sticking point.
Air Berlin, whose losses increased to a record 782 million
euros ($877 million) in 2016, is now scrambling to protect its
roughly 8,000 jobs in Germany, mainly based in the two regional
states of Berlin and NRW.
Officials of the two states declined to comment.
Etihad, which holds 29 percent of Air Berlin, last month
appointed a new boss as it rethinks its strategy of expanding
its network by spending billions of dollars on buying minority
stakes in other airlines, including Air Berlin and heavily
indebted Italian carrier Alitalia..
German newspaper Die Welt was first to report the Air Berlin
loan guarantee request, saying the aim was to see whether the
regional states would be ready to step in, citing people close
to the negotiation.
For now, Etihad continues to provide funding. Air Berlin
said Etihad has granted another loan facility of 350 million
euros and a letter of support for at least 18 months.
Air Berlin Chief Executive Thomas Winkelmann told a German
newspaper on Wednesday he would have to find a partner this year
to help secure jobs and the company's long-term future and a
pact with Lufthansa was among the options.
($1 = 0.8915 euros)
(Reporting by Peter Maushagen; Writing by Edward Taylor and
Ludwig Burger; Editing by Greg Mahlich)