tkoenig95
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What exactly did airberlin do wrong?

Sat Sep 08, 2018 8:00 pm

airberlin was a staple for many business and leisure travelers across the coming coming and going from Germany. As an airline that went through the same struggles of today's airlines fighting for business and leisure traffic, competing with ULCCs and high barriers to entry in markets with ample modes of transportation, what happened?

The "new Air Berlin" project commenced in 2016, but obviously the long-term goal of cutting costs did not save the airline from folding. Did Etihad's drop of stake in the company really push the execs in a corner with no where to turn? Or did the airline get past the point of no return and milk as much from the company as viably possible?
 
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chunhimlai
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Re: What exactly did airberlin do wrong?

Sat Sep 08, 2018 8:36 pm

They would have had longer life if it has mergered with AZ
 
djvalume
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Re: What exactly did airberlin do wrong?

Sat Sep 08, 2018 9:09 pm

I've recently done line training with an ex AB D.E.C. and according to him they had poor to no cost control... One example is after the LTU merger they insisted on having 2 identical Operation Control Centers (OCC). One was in Düsseldorf and the other in Berlin and on top of the costs of manning and operating both, pretty much neither had any idea what the other was doing, creating lots of pointless messes... at least it looked like that to the crews.

Long Haul made them bleed badly as well I think. While the 330s were somewhat full, they were low yielding... I had a flight on them going home to the US once and paid just shy of $300 USD/person round trip. Cheapest ticket I ever paid across the pond...
 
rlwynn
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Re: What exactly did airberlin do wrong?

Sat Sep 08, 2018 9:31 pm

Strange, they were always one of if not the most expensive across the Pond.
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DLHAM
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Re: What exactly did airberlin do wrong?

Sat Sep 08, 2018 9:34 pm

Too much expansion too fast by buying dBA and LTU in a short timeframe, then too many changes of direction and last but not least too many new CEOs in a short time, everyone of them having own ideas.

Also I am pretty sure that the never opening BER is a big factor too, they intended to build up a big Hub in Berlin. They would have taken advantage of a new, capable BER, instead they had to have hub operations in Tegel which is too small and it never worked well. One of the reasons why they also had to count a lot on DUS too, making it necassary to operate two Hubs side by side which is expensive I think.
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Aax1
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Re: What exactly did airberlin do wrong?

Sat Sep 08, 2018 9:40 pm

I think the quick answer is air berlin didn't really know who they were as an airline, they didn't have a focus.

Started off as West Berlin's airline but with the start of the de-regulation of Europe's skies and the rise of LCC's they just didn't have a set vision.
They tried to be low cost but also tried to be full service.
They were a European short-haul but also had long haul services, their route network was odd.
They tried to be a business airline with high frequencies but also a leisure airline/Spanish airline.
Tried too many restructures, too many new ventures, too many partner airlines, no cost control, no united aircraft fleet.

A shame overall, one of the great names of sky lost either way.
 
OSL777FLYER
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Re: What exactly did airberlin do wrong?

Sat Sep 08, 2018 9:48 pm

DLHAM wrote:
Too much expansion too fast by buying dBA and LTU in a short timeframe, then too many changes of direction and last but not least too many new CEOs in a short time, everyone of them having own ideas.

Also I am pretty sure that the never opening BER is a big factor too, they intended to build up a big Hub in Berlin. They would have taken advantage of a new, capable BER, instead they had to have hub operations in Tegel which is too small and it never worked well. One of the reasons why they also had to count a lot on DUS too, making it necassary to operate two Hubs side by side which is expensive I think.


You definitely hit the nail on the head there!

These were indeed the reasons. They grew too fast and also came into the situation of "Who are we?" Low-cost or full-service?

I flew them quite a bit and it was sad to see the services on board slowly but surely start to disappear.

Their entry into the Oneworld alliance could have helped, but they did not expand or utilize their slots out of FRA.

They became a "puppet" for Etihad in the end. Ironically, Etihad is struggling at the moment as well after buying into several airlines that are struggling.
 
NWADTWE16
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Re: What exactly did airberlin do wrong?

Sat Sep 08, 2018 10:35 pm

Germany should've helped them especially given the crisis that is BER and that is not AB fault. Regarding trans-atlantic fares, they were sky high every time I checked them from RSW but they did pack those flights and were THE link for the large dispora between the two areas.

Lastly, letting LH gobble everything in site is a bad move and that was what ended them IMO
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Newbiepilot
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Re: What exactly did airberlin do wrong?

Sat Sep 08, 2018 11:13 pm

Terrible costs from what I heard. They were overpaying for their leased planes and were also not cost competitive on maintenance costs. Meanwhile their fares were on the low side.
 
Waterbomber
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Re: What exactly did airberlin do wrong?

Sat Sep 08, 2018 11:54 pm

The departure from their initial LCC focus IMO. AB were great when they were LCC, but then they wanted to get a share of LH's business. That was the misstep and what brought it all down.
I see Ryanair today doing a bit of the same and p*ssing everyone off, both the LCC customers and the few premium flyers that give them a chance.
You can't make people pay premium fares and harass them with perfume ads all flight.
Ryanair also have nowhere to go but down, being challenged by newer entrants such as Volotea, but also the established ones like Wizz and DY.
 
BojamDelta
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Re: What exactly did airberlin do wrong?

Sun Sep 09, 2018 12:17 am

I was on holiday down in SW Florida and a few years ago I was in a shopping complex car park and saw an Air Berlin A330
heading into RSW.
First thoughts a diverted flight until I realised it's an AB service!
Sorry to hijack the thread but what will happen to to this service?
LH and BA both fly to MIA, MCO and TPA, could one of these step in?

Bo)am
 
hinckley
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Re: What exactly did airberlin do wrong?

Sun Sep 09, 2018 12:36 am

tkoenig95 wrote:
Did Etihad's drop of stake in the company really push the execs in a corner with no where to turn?


The short answer to this part of your post is yes. German law is very specific about the declaration of insolvancy. If a company's liabilities are greater than assets, management must immediately declare it insolvent even if they have sufficient cash flow to continue operations. Failure to do so brings personal liability to management. The only exception to this rule is if another company guarantees the solvancy of the technically insolvent company. So once Ethiad dropped its guarantee to airberlin, management had no choice but to immediately declare the company insolvent.
 
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aemoreira1981
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Re: What exactly did airberlin do wrong?

Sun Sep 09, 2018 2:04 am

BojamDelta wrote:
I was on holiday down in SW Florida and a few years ago I was in a shopping complex car park and saw an Air Berlin A330
heading into RSW.
First thoughts a diverted flight until I realised it's an AB service!
Sorry to hijack the thread but what will happen to to this service?
LH and BA both fly to MIA, MCO and TPA, could one of these step in?

Bo)am


DUS-RSW is currently now operated by Eurowings, usually on Airbus A330-342 OO-SFB that is shared with the MIA route.

As for their long-haul, I really believe they should have focused on DUS with long-haul with TXL having short-haul only. It is notable that EW was quick to take over PUJ, CUN, JFK, RSW, and MIA, but nothing else on the Air Berlin network from DUS, basically on 3 planes. These planes have a small J cabin though (2 of the 3 being basically CityLine-configured A343s with a new coat of paint).

(TXL was operated in W17 to JFK, but then dropped for want of a suitable slot.) Perhaps only short-haul European destinations from TXL and long-haul from DUS with an AA codeshare for destinations beyond JFK and MIA. As others had mentioned, AB had too many long-haul planes and their planes (short and long haul) were all leased (I don't know if U2 and DE simply had leases transferred to it, but LH bought out the leases of the planes it got.) But I have to wonder how bad the lease rates had to be on A332s that were 230t MTOW (some 233t) and with P&W engines. EY may have kept AB alive longer than it would have survived organically. There were too many airlines competing in the same market segment---DE, ST, and XG/EW, and AB didn't do anything to distinguish itself. I suspect also that MA's collapse may have allowed AB to hang on a bit longer, with oneworld needing a mainland European member.
 
ShanghaiNoon
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Re: What exactly did airberlin do wrong?

Sun Sep 09, 2018 3:21 am

Their long haul had to be a pretty big drain. If I recall correctly, it was a big hodgepodge of routes out of both Munich and Dusseldorf that didn't make any sense and didn't even fly every day. I took their A330 from Vancouver to Dusseldorf in 2009. It was probably about 75% empty in economy, and it only cost about $500 one-way to Paris. It's really a shame they're gone. Connecting in Dusseldorf was a dream compared to Frankfurt or any of the European hubs.
 
OSL777FLYER
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Re: What exactly did airberlin do wrong?

Sun Sep 09, 2018 7:11 am

Newbiepilot wrote:
Terrible costs from what I heard. They were overpaying for their leased planes and were also not cost competitive on maintenance costs. Meanwhile their fares were on the low side.


I am not sure specifically how much they paid for their leased aircraft, but I know they leased a lot from TUIFLY and Germania. They simply had to to cover their routes.

They were a great airline that simply became too ambitious and drove themselves out, along losing their focus about "Who are we"? Low-cost, full service?????
 
chonetsao
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Re: What exactly did airberlin do wrong?

Sun Sep 09, 2018 7:44 am

Their demise is the short haul fleet. It seems everyone already forgotten the very unreasonable lease of their B737 from Germania (or another company has a similar name). Whomever signed the lease should be thoroughly investigated. I believe their long haul to RSW and Florida performed strongly. The AUH-BKK/HKT run is not.
 
DouglasDC10
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Re: What exactly did airberlin do wrong?

Sun Sep 09, 2018 8:14 am

chonetsao wrote:
Their demise is the short haul fleet. It seems everyone already forgotten the very unreasonable lease of their B737 from Germania (or another company has a similar name). Whomever signed the lease should be thoroughly investigated. I believe their long haul to RSW and Florida performed strongly. The AUH-BKK/HKT run is not.


The airline was TUIfly. Air Berlin did not only take over dba and LTU but also a huge part of TUIfly's network at around 2010. TUIfly only kept their classic bucket and spade routes to Spain, Greece, Turkey and similar places with a focus on package holidays. Air Berlin took over the so-called city routes (German domestic routes, Italy, Austria etc.), mostly destinations from the former HLX network. Unfortunately, this included also the highly unfavourable wet-lease deal with TUIfly for their eleven 737-700s. To sum up: This was also part of "too much - too soon" and one of many nails in Air Berlin's coffin.
 
Nicoeddf
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Re: What exactly did airberlin do wrong?

Sun Sep 09, 2018 8:35 am

A great airline? Personally I don't get the love for airberlin. While I know quite a few employees whom surely made a great job, their management was an abomination, both personally as well as in management skill.
No sympathies here for a structurally sick company which has been allowed to stay afloat on Gulf money far too long.
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Ryanair01
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Re: What exactly did airberlin do wrong?

Sun Sep 09, 2018 9:37 am

Their strategy for a long time was M&A to gain scale. As I recall they envisaged an Air Berlin + LTU + Condor merger but ultimately the Condor link never happened.

Their network got pretty random too. Palma to Faro with Air Berlin? Not an instinctive search for a direct distribution airline. Just one of the many routes they set up, with no obvious brand presence, to then shut down quickly before things had a chance to build up.

Ultimately I think they folded because the M&A strategy failed to deliver, coupled with very odd network design that built up and changed direction constantly. Others have mentioned high costs and lack of integration with LTU, I don't know about those things but it rings true.
 
tommy1808
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Re: What exactly did airberlin do wrong?

Sun Sep 09, 2018 10:09 am

djvalume wrote:
I've recently done line training with an ex AB D.E.C. and according to him they had poor to no cost control... One.


Money waste encouragement ...
Guess the reply a pilot got when calling ops to point out that instead of two taxis Hanover-Berlin they just need one van type taxi... "take both taxis, to much work to call the taxi company".

Former AB people can fill hours with those 100 EUR waste here, 200 waste there stories.

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Noshow
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Re: What exactly did airberlin do wrong?

Sun Sep 09, 2018 10:26 am

After initial success as a secondary airport holiday airline they moved into the mainline business without the financial power. That included a fleet rollover from B to A. They ended up with too many concepts at the same time. For some time they even were Spain's second biggest airline with a hub at Palma. Business class, widebodies, intercontinal routes. Everything and nothing, burning through money they did not have. Then they served legacy trunk routes even daring to attack huge Lufthansa. It was a long way down finally. Still sad to watch it. The ops was cool and on time the people were nice. The true chaos only started in the final season with some new über-unable luggage handler at Tegel airport.
 
devron
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Re: What exactly did airberlin do wrong?

Sun Sep 09, 2018 10:43 am

As always a combination of factors

- No clear strategy (LCC or LH clone)
- No clear route network
- High costs (opperations, leases, employment
- Berlin
- Strong competition (LH, LCC)
 
Delta777Jet
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Re: What exactly did airberlin do wrong?

Sun Sep 09, 2018 11:09 am

1.) They adopted the name Air Berlin for LTU, it should have been the other way around, keep LTU, drop Air Berlin.
2.) No Berlin Tegel hub operations- anyone who ever tried to connect in Tegel will understand what I´m talking about. This place offers no comfort at all with the expansion terminal like a tent, baggage operations but also location wise in the upper right side corner of Germany. Move all hub ops to Dusseldorf instead.
3.) No TUI 737 sub-leases
4.) No useless crew shuttling around the bases

I think these measurements would have been sufficient to make them profitable.
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Noshow
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Re: What exactly did airberlin do wrong?

Sun Sep 09, 2018 11:26 am

LTU was a huge loss maker over many years and had been before. Buying LTU was one of the biggest mistakes airberlin ever made. And it made many.
 
KLDC10
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Re: What exactly did airberlin do wrong?

Sun Sep 09, 2018 11:46 am

NWADTWE16 wrote:
Germany should've helped them especially given the crisis that is BER and that is not AB fault. Regarding trans-atlantic fares, they were sky high every time I checked them from RSW but they did pack those flights and were THE link for the large dispora between the two areas.

Lastly, letting LH gobble everything in site is a bad move and that was what ended them IMO


To be fair, the German government can only act in accordance with the law, and they did act to ensure that the airline did not collapse suddenly. Air Berlin filed for insolvency in mid-August last year and ceased operations on 27th October. The German government provided a loan in order to ensure that the airline could maintain operations long enough to prevent passengers from being stranded and to make arrangements for the orderly sale of company assets.

Air Berlin had around 8,000 employees. Lufthansa took on 3,000 of those, while Easyjet took on 1,000. It it hadn't been for those two airlines stepping in to take over aircraft and routes previously operated by Air Berlin, a lot more people would have found themselves out of work. Is it ideal, from a competitive viewpoint, that Lufthansa is more-or-less dominant in the German market? No. But Easyjet operations at Tegel are a viable alternative for domestic passengers, so it's not like Lufthansa has been able to develop a monopoly. The whole situation was handled more-or-less as well as it could have been with regards to the actions of Lufthansa, Easyjet and the German Government.

The real fault lies with Air Berlin and Etihad management. After all, it was they who failed to make Air Berlin into a profitable, viable and sustainable business and ultimately Etihad which pulled the plug on the company. Clearly, Etihad's turnaround strategy was not up to snuff and their investments in loss-making airlines has caused significant financial problems for the parent company. It's reminiscent of the ill-fated Swissair "hunter strategy", which was also a policy of investing in loss-making airlines like Sabena in the hope of using "Swiss Expertise" to turn them around. I'm puzzled as to why Etihad decided to do almost exactly the same thing with Air Berlin, Alitalia and others. MAYBE (and it's a big maybe) that sort of strategy could work on a small scale, one airline at a time as it appears to have done in the case of Delta/Virgin Atlantic, but it's always going to be a high-risk strategy and shouldn't be attempted with multiple failing airlines at once.
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AndrewJM70
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Re: What exactly did airberlin do wrong?

Sun Sep 09, 2018 11:52 am

Air Berlin's seat cost for a 1 hour short-haul sector was around €70; Ryanair's is around €25. The answer is a simple as that.
 
tommy1808
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Re: What exactly did airberlin do wrong?

Sun Sep 09, 2018 12:01 pm

KLDC10 wrote:
Is it ideal, from a competitive viewpoint, that Lufthansa is more-or-less dominant in the German market? No. But Easyjet operations at Tegel are a viable alternative for domestic passengers, so it's not like Lufthansa has been able to develop a monopoly.


Domestic trains are a good alternative, long haul you have plenty of hubs to transfer at. Air Berlin still tried to connect passengers in TXL...

The whole situation was handled more-or-less as well as it could have been with regards to the actions of Lufthansa, Easyjet and the German Government.


Yup. More help would have been illegal, less would be tragic for crews and passengers.

The real fault lies with Air Berlin and Etihad management.


Buying LTU was a mistake predating that. Lots of expensive staff...

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Jouhou
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Re: What exactly did airberlin do wrong?

Sun Sep 09, 2018 12:10 pm

Noshow wrote:
After initial success as a secondary airport holiday airline they moved into the mainline business without the financial power. That included a fleet rollover from B to A. They ended up with too many concepts at the same time. For some time they even were Spain's second biggest airline with a hub at Palma. Business class, widebodies, intercontinal routes. Everything and nothing, burning through money they did not have. Then they served legacy trunk routes even daring to attack huge Lufthansa. It was a long way down finally. Still sad to watch it. The ops was cool and on time the people were nice. The true chaos only started in the final season with some new über-unable luggage handler at Tegel airport.


Yeah. No one yet has mentioned the word "debt" yet so I'll bring that up now. They tried expanding too rapidly as has been mentioned before, but accumulating too much debt at high interest rates is generally why this strategy ends up failing so rapidly. They end up spending everything they make on just paying off interest.

I'm pretty sure this is currently the primary concern with both Norwegian and HNA right now.
 
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Eindhoven
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Re: What exactly did airberlin do wrong?

Sun Sep 09, 2018 12:13 pm

I recently heard someone blame it on the German APD (Luftverkehrabgabe). This would draw German pax across the border to fly from foreign airports. Like for example DUS is only 120 kilometers from EIN. DUS was a hub for AB, but many people that would otherwise fly AB from DUS now drove to EIN to fly FR or HV. AB was making a loss on their DUS-AUA/CUR flights, yet at the same time OR was planning EIN-AUA/CUR flights. They never materialised, but that was not due to lack of demand. The demand was there, mostly from Germany. They only had the regulations against them.

I imagine from TXL people can drive to SZZ or something like that, so you have a similar problem there.
 
MIflyer12
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Re: What exactly did airberlin do wrong?

Sun Sep 09, 2018 12:16 pm

The OP's stance is that AirBerlin had a right to exist - it must have done something wrong to fail. Lots of businesses fail every day. The air carrier business has big economies of scale (through both purchasing and network effects).
 
lanalemania
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Re: What exactly did airberlin do wrong?

Sun Sep 09, 2018 2:11 pm

AB had substantial problems on multiple levels.

One of the main problems was the aforementioned cost base, which wouldn’t fit revenue. Beginning with LTU merger, very costly structures were taken over without integrating them properly. Revenue management used to be weak. Crew cost rose around 30% within 3 years for the whole airberlin ops (not only the LTU part), made up of a combination of pay rises and stricter rules regarding flying hours based on new collective agreements. High lease cost and the TUIfly contract didn’t help either. With various AOCs operating the AB network, complexity couldn’t be handled anymore in a cost efficient way.

About 1/5 of the entire fleet and crew would be paid the whole year but needed only about 2 months during summer peak, the rest of the year this part of the capacity would sit idle (this is after subtracting maintenance reserves). This cost bleeding structure was not changed for years, until ‘new airberlin’ including the LH/EW deal promised better utilisation. Debt went through the roof this way.

There was little to no cost control. Management often would accept costly invests if someone would promise them to make money out of it (and they let a lot of people and consultancies promise them anything..) - it was often never analysed whether there was some win out of it. Restructuring programs would not track actual cost expenses but rather focus on productivity or ‘quality’ indicators, keeping aside real development of the cash situation. Frequent top management changes and a company structure with decision makers either not willing or not able to focus on structured decision making weren’t able to change this.

AB also lost track on business Intelligence/IT innovation. They managed revenue steering and crew scheduling up to 2011 manually using spreadsheets, paper printouts and colourful felt tips. Over the years, new software would be introduced in many departments - often with costly detours due to missing competence or ineffective communication within the company.

A lot of decisions driven by Etihad were fatal for their financial situation: flights to AUH were among the biggest loss makers in the whole network. Etihad used to be the only money source during the last 2-3 years. When they didn’t transfer a part of a credit in August 2017, AB had to declare bankruptcy immediately.

There were many loyal and motivated employees within crew and HQ, especially back from the profitable years. There was a lot of expertise in how to fly, but less how to watch the economic side of flying. There were also many former consultants without a clue about aviation but with lots of presentations. There were many employees not liking to work for AB but sticking there due to good pay. There were whole company cultures preserved within AB, LTU being the most notable. Nevertheless management wasn’t able to transfer or connect knowledge and abilities of the workforce to tackle all these problems. This eventually caused a lot of frustration. Labour relations with unions used to be toxic, driven by ABs fear of strikes, admitting to union’s wishes which they didn’t have the money for. Having treated some staff groups badly pre-LTU merger fought back on them. They couldn’t draw a picture of the future and in return wouldn’t get trust.

It was a failed business model continued for years which broke their neck. They had the metal and knowledge to do it IMO, they didn’t manage to use both in a sufficient way to survive.
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