BERLIN German airline Air Berlin's chief executive is to step down in the new year, to be replaced by a senior manager at Lufthansa following a wide-ranging shake-up of the loss-making carrier. Air Berlin, 29 percent owned by Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways, said on Sunday Stefan Pichler will step down on February 1, two years after he took over, to be replaced by Thomas Winkelmann.Air Berlin has announced a series of restructuring moves in recent weeks that will halve its fleet to around 75 aircraft, after leasing 38 crewed aircraft to Lufthansa and spinning off its tourist routes as a new leisure airline joint venture with tour operator TUI's TUIFly unit, to focus on long-haul flights operated out of Berlin and Duesseldorf. However, it is still loss-making and has been hit this year by fierce competition on routes to Spain as tourists avoided eastern Mediterranean destinations due to security fears.
"Winkelmann will continue the restructuring of Air Berlin in order to ensure a sustainable and profitable future," the airline said in a statement.Pichler, 59, has been in the job since February 2015 and was brought in to turn around the carrier after successfully restructuring Fiji Airways.
Winkelmann, 57, was previously head of Lufthansa budget carrier Germanwings and since late 2015 has been responsible for Lufthansa's hub at Munich.
"I thank Pichler for his unwavering efforts to achieve a turnaround," Air Berlin chairman Hans-Joachim Koerber said in a statement. (Reporting by Victoria Bryan; Editing by Greg Mahlich)
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Updated Date: Dec 18, 2016 23:00:07 IST