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: Air Berlin to take on Lufthansa

: Air Berlin to take on Lufthansa.


Germany's second-biggest airline, Air Berlin, plans to take on the future Swiss subsidiary of larger rival Deutsche Lufthansa at its home base in Zurich, the carrier said.

"Switzerland with Zurich, where we already have a plane based, will become a further area of growth for us," Air Berlin chief Joachim Hunold told Reuters in an interview. "We will put more capacity into Zurich next summer."

Hunold said he would be targeting additional short-haul capacity out of Zurich, at a time when Lufthansa is mulling how best to tackle the growing threat from low-cost carriers.

Lufthansa is paying as much as 310 million euros ($373.7 million) to take control of Swiss International Air Lines in stages over the next two years. Swiss will give it lucrative Swiss business traffic and a further hub at Zurich, and it hopes to complete the purchase in 2006 or 2007.

Swiss carried almost half the 17.3 million passengers at Zurich airport last year. Lufthansa flew 4.8 percent, while Air Berlin carried over 3 percent.

Hunold also said he expected Air Berlin would probably exceed its own forecasts this year. Passenger numbers will rise 20 percent, rather than the planned 15 percent, to significantly over 14 million, he said.

Sales will climb significantly more than 20 percent this year, from 1.05 billion euros last year, and will exceed the previous target of 1.28 billion, Hunold said.



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