LONDON, March 30 (Reuters) - The Belgian unit of Thomas Cook Airlines plans to transfer air crews, flight slots and two of its five aircraft to Brussels Airlines, in a move to extend a partnership with the Lufthansa-owned carrier, the companies said on Thursday.
Thomas Cook has worked closely with Brussels Airlines for years, but the latest initiative follows a slide in customers and profits at Thomas Cook’s Belgian travel unit after last year’s attacks on Brussels airport.
Thomas Cook, whose airline has units in other countries, said in a statement it had agreed to use Brussels Airlines for the majority of its Belgium business and would consider launching new long-haul destinations with the carrier.
“The proposal builds upon a successful 15-year working relationship between Thomas Cook Belgium and Brussels Airlines,” Thomas Cook said in it statement.
Under the deal, Thomas Cook’s Belgian unit would transfer 160 pilots and cabin crew, flight slots and two aircraft to Brussels Airlines, it said. The remaining three aircraft will be deployed across the Thomas Cook Group.
A Brussels Airlines spokesman said the partnership would mean the carrier could fly to more leisure destinations.
Lufthansa last year exercised an option to acquire Brussels Airlines in a bid by the German carrier to expand its Eurowings low-cost unit. Lufthansa executives have previously called for consolidation among European airlines.
Thomas Cook, whose management has previously said it would consider partnerships with local airlines, said in its statement the deal with Brussels Airlines was in line with that strategy.
Thomas Cook said last year it was looking at restructuring its German airline Condor after poor profitability, but the Chief Executive Officer Peter Fankhauser told a newspaper this that Thomas Cook did not want to sell Condor.
Reporting by Alistair Smout and Victoria Bryan; Editing by Edmund Blair