Around five years after Air Berlin went bankrupt, insolvency administrator Lucas Flöther filed a lawsuit against the last CEO, Thomas Winkelmann, with the Berlin district court. A date for the start of the process has not yet been set.
The manager only took over the management of the Air Berlin Group in February 2017 and had previously worked for Lufthansa for many years. Among other things, he was managing director of the then low-cost airline Germanwings. The appointment of Thomas Winkelmann to head Air Berlin was interpreted at the time as a clear rapprochement with Lufthansa. Among other things, they worked for Eurowings and Air Berlin in the form of wet lease services.
The once second largest airline was considered to be financially ailing for many years and was kept in the air by major shareholder Etihad Airways, among others. For example, the frequent flyer program was sold to the golf carrier at a completely absurd price. The only reason for this was that a lot of money could be fed into Air Berlin in this way. In Abu Dhabi, at some point, people got fed up with constantly transferring funds to the heavily loss-making holdings. First, Alitalia was cut off from the money supply and gradually all other subsidiaries as well. These then collapsed like a house of cards, with Air Serbia and Air Seychelles only being saved from collapse thanks to the fact that their respective governments stepped in.
Air Berlin could have gone bankrupt much sooner
In the summer of 2017, Etihad Airways also stopped making payments to Air Berlin. The so-called letter of comfort, which had been signed only a few weeks earlier, could no longer or did not want to be observed. This document was also the reason why the Federal Aviation Authority did not intervene, even though Air Berlin, due to the precarious financial situation, has long since ceased to meet the conditions for the continued existence of the AOC and operating license.
Insolvency administrator Lucas Flöther tried to hold the golf carrier liable for the bankruptcy of Air Berlin on the basis of this document. He was not successful with this, because a British court represented a legal opinion that differed significantly from the lawyer's request. Meanwhile, Flöther is following this procedure no longer further.
Air Berlin's creditors' committee is now assuming that Air Berlin's insolvency did not occur in the summer of 2017 after Etihad Airways' "basket" but much earlier. The committee has commissioned Lucas Flöther to take legal action against Thomas Winkelmann. It is suspected that he reacted far too late to the financial situation and as a result: According to the creditors' committee, the manager, who is presumed innocent, should have gone to the bankruptcy judge much earlier.
Lawsuit could seek payment from the insurance company
A spokesman for the Berlin district court confirmed to the daily newspaper “Morgenpost” that a corresponding lawsuit had been filed under file number 90 O 35/22. The media officer also said: “A date for an oral hearing has not yet been scheduled. In this proceeding, the plaintiff sued the defendant for manager liability. No further details were given with regard to data protection.
Air Berlin's creditors' committee apparently wants to demand a double-digit million amount from Thomas Winkelmann. For this purpose, however, it must first be determined by a court that the manager actually acted in breach of duty. It is rather unlikely that you want to get hold of the private purse of the former Air Berlin boss. The carrier had industry-standard liability insurance for management, covering damage in the event of failure of management bodies. It can therefore be assumed that the procedure is used to enable the insurance company to make payments in favor of the creditors.