* First easyJet flight takes off from Tegel on Friday
* EasyJet to announce further Tegel routes in due course
* Aims for 18 mln passengers in Germany this year
* Recruitment of Air Berlin crew makes progress (Adds CFO comment, details on routes, recruitment of Air Berlin crew)
BERLIN, Jan 5 (Reuters) - EasyJet aims to more than double passenger numbers in Germany to 18 million this year after taking over some of failed airline Air Berlin’s operations at Berlin’s Tegel airport, it said on Friday.
Domestic routes from inner-city Tegel, which launched with a flight to Munich on Friday, are bulking up the British budget carrier’s business and putting it in direct competition for business customers with Lufthansa’s airlines.
“This is a key step for us. We will be Number One in the Berlin market,” easyJet finance chief Andrew Findlay told Reuters.
EasyJet already flies from Berlin’s other airport, Schoenefeld, to destinations outside Germany.
Along with four domestic routes to Duesseldorf, Frankfurt, Munich and Stuttgart, easyJet is adding flights from Tegel to 15 international destinations, including Zurich, Vienna, Paris Charles de Gaulle and holiday destinations including Mallorca.
EasyJet said it would announce further routes from Tegel for the summer season, which starts on March 25, in due course. One in five easyJet passengers will start or finish their journey in Germany this year, it added.
As part of its move to take over Air Berlin operations at Tegel, easyJet is recruiting some of the German carrier’s crew.
Some 40 cabin crew members started their training in December and another 330 have passed the selection process and will start training in the coming months, it easyJet.
The first 30 pilots will start training in January and February, with 255 more still undergoing the selection process, it said in a statement.
The ex-Air Berlin crew are joining easyJet gradually over a period of several months because they cannot all be trained at the same time.
“We could eventually end up recruiting up to 1,000 crew from Air Berlin,” Findlay said. (Reporting by Klaus Lauer; Writing by Maria Sheahan; Editing by Douglas Busvine and Mark Potter)