Air Berlin to cut seats, fleet in bid for turnaround

Reuters

* Swings to Q2 net profit of 8.6 mln euros

* CEO says to stick to current business model

* CEO aims for sustained profits in 3 years

* Shares rise 7.8 pct in after-hours trade (Adds more comments on restructuring, CEO comment, costs)

BERLIN, Aug 20 (Reuters) - Air Berlin, Germany's second largest airline, said it will cut the number of seats it offers and reduce the number of aircraft it operates as it launches a new plan to return to profits.

The company, 29-percent owned by Abu Dhabi-based Etihad, will reduce capacity by 10 percent, shrink its fleet by about 10 aircraft and shut down five crew bases, it said on Wednesday as it reported second quarter results.

It is also in talks for a close bilateral cooperation with Alitalia, which Etihad has just agreed to buy almost half of, thus rescuing the loss-making Italian carrier.

Air Berlin's fleet currently comprises planes made by Airbus , Boeing and Bombardier, but it said it will aim to harmonise its narrow body fleet.

Air Berlin, found itself saddled with debt after a period of rapid expansion, is already cutting 10 percent of its workforce and has halted unprofitable routes as part of the Turbine restructuring programme.

It said on Wednesday that it had managed to reduce costs per available seat kilometre excluding fuel by 2.8 percent and improve yield by 3 percent, as it reported a net profit of 8.6 million euros, against a year-earlier loss of 38 million.

"We are determined to restructure Air Berlin to ensure the airline moves back to a sustainable profitability within three years," Chief Executive Wolfgang Prock-Schauer said in a statement on Wednesday.

Part of Air Berlin's problem, analysts say, is that it has no clear business model or pricing strategy. It serves holiday charter routes to places such as Majorca, plus short-haul European city destinations as well as some long-haul routes to the United States.

Prock-Schauer said on Wednesday however that Air Berlin would stick to its business model.

After plummeting over the last 18 months, Air Berlin shares trade at just 1.30 euros, giving it a market capitalisation of 155 million euros. Its shares were up 7.8 percent in Frankfurt after-hours trade.

(1 US dollar = 0.7526 euro) (Reporting by Victoria Bryan; Editing by Maria Sheahan)

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