September 8, 2017 / 1:24 PM / a year ago

Air Berlin may drop more long-haul routes next week - sources

FRANKFURT/BERLIN, Sept 8 (Reuters) - Insolvent German airline Air Berlin may drop more long-haul routes next week, earlier than planned, to cut costs as it races to find investors before it runs out of cash, people familiar with the matter said on Friday.

Air Berlin, Germany’s second-largest airline, filed for bankruptcy protection in August after shareholder Etihad Airways withdrew funding following years of losses.

“The next step will be that further long-haul planes from Duesseldorf will be grounded,” one of the sources, who is familiar with the industry, told Reuters.

Air Berlin said talk of cancelling more routes was “speculation”.

The government pledged a 150 million euro ($180.7 million) loan to keep its planes flying for up to three months while its assets are carved up, most likely among several buyers.

Air Berlin said late in August it was bringing forward by a month to Oct. 1 the cancellation of its services from Berlin to Los Angeles and San Francisco, and from Duesseldorf to Boston.

It said this week it was dropping flights from Berlin to New York and Miami and from Duesseldorf to Orlando as of Sept. 25.

Bidders have until Sept. 15 to submit binding offers for Air Berlin’s assets, with a decision possible as early as Sept. 21.

German flagship carrier Lufthansa has government backing to take over large parts of the airline.

A source has told Reuters the German flagship carrier could acquire as many as 90 of its planes, including 38 aircraft it was already leasing from the airline and its leisure unit Niki.

Britain’s EasyJet and Thomas Cook’s Condor could split the rest of the fleet between them, media reports have said, with easyJet interested in up to 40 planes and Condor considering a double-digit figure.

An industry source said Condor was also interested in Niki as well as further aircraft including crew, and would submit a binding offer next week.

$1 = 0.8303 euros Reporting by Ilona Wissenbach and Klaus Lauer; Writing by Maria Sheahan; Editing by Edmund Blair

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