Air Transport World

When one is bigger: TUI AG aims to establish the first 'pan-European' carrier by melding its six airline affiliates. (Profile).(Statistical Data Included)

What do you get when you combine What operations of six geographically distinct European leisure airlines with around 7,500 employees under a single management umbrella? If you are TUI AG, the answer is an integrated powerhouse with strong local market identity backed by the supporting infrastructure and marketing clout of Europe's largest travel and tourism provider.

At least that is the intent of the bold effort underway at the company formerly known as Preussag AG. Flashy fresh livery marked by a broad red stylized-smile logo on a blue background is starting to appear on the bulk of TUI's fleet of 88 aircraft operated by such well-known leisure carriers as Britannia of the UK and Germany's Hapag-Lloyd.

Who will have the last laugh in the hotly contested inclusive travel/leisure field remains to be seen. Potent competitors Thomas Cook AG with its core Condor fleet and REWE-Touristik Group whose lead carrier is LTU International Airways clearly are not just idling on the runway.

TUI executives declare, however, that they are ahead of their rivals by virtue of a unique, newly launched division that aims ultimately to blend the airlines into a single operational business under centralized management while still remaining independent legal entities under their own names.

The dynamic visionary for this change is Wolfgang Kurth, CEO of Hannover-based TUI Airline Management and for nearly 10 years previously MD of HapagLloyd Flug. "We're breaking new ground and some of us may be skeptical because [sticking to] tradition sometimes is more comfortable than living through the changes of a business," Kurth says. "But our market, our business environment and our competition are changing every day. In our group, we will be much more successful than each airline would be if standing alone. …

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