BERLIN, June 23 (Reuters) - Air Berlin sought to reassure customers that its operations were back on track on Friday after ground handling problems, delays and headlines over its financial situation rocked the German carrier.
“We promise - Air Berlin and Niki are back at cruising altitude,” the carrier’s chief operating officer Goetz Ahmelmann wrote in an email sent to customers on Friday, apologising for the delays. Niki is Air Berlin’s unit that operates flights to mainly tourist destinations.
Air Berlin, 29 percent-owned by Abu Dhabi based Etihad, last year made a record net loss of 782 million euros.
Its woes this year have been compounded by a switch to a new ground handling company at Berlin’s Tegel airport at the end of March, which has resulted in delays and baggage problems.
In May, just 54.2 percent of Air Berlin’s flights were on time, according to data from OAG flightview. That compares with 80.1 percent in February, before the ground handling switch. Niki’s on-time rate was 61 percent in May and 68.5 percent in February.
The carrier this month asked the German states of North-Rhine Westphalia and Berlin to consider possible loan guarantees amid signs of waning support from Etihad but said on Thursday they were no longer required after it made progress with restructuring.
In the email, Ahmelmann said Air Berlin had taken on more staff and made changes to its flight plan at its home airport of Berlin Tegel. It has previously said it plans to do more flying from its other hub in Duesseldorf in the future.
“The punctuality and the reliability of our flight operations has since significantly improved. You can therefore book your Air Berlin and Niki flight with confidence,” he wrote. (Reporting by Victoria Bryan; Editing by Mark Potter)