As a "starting aid" for the Niki successor Laudamotion, some of its aircraft and crews could be leased to Eurowings, as reported in the German media. However, both Eurowings and Lauda said a decision had not yet been made.
For anti-competition legal reasons, the Air Berlin subsidiary, Niki, could not be sold to Lufthansa in December. It was to be merged into Lufthansa’s low-cost subsidiary Eurowings. The Lufthansa subsidiary and Niki Lauda, the new owner of Niki, have agreed on the rental of numerous aircraft including crews, said the German "Manager Magazin". This deal concerns the majority of the 15 Niki aircraft acquired by Laudamotion, which could be leased to the Eurowings via wet lease.
No decision yet
"There is still no decision”, said a Eurowings spokesman. Laudamotion itself said on Thursday: "We have discussed it, but nothing has happened yet”. Both sides confirmed that they are only in talks and contracts have not been signed. Basically, Eurowings is looking for further growth opportunities, said a spokesman for the Lufthansa subsidiary. Regardless, Eurowings has to talk with Laudamotion about the retransfer of the aircraft which had been acquired by Lufthansa in 2017 in anticipation of the ultimately failed acquisition of Niki, it said.
German media has speculated that the German airline Laudamotion may enjoy some start-up assistance. This means that Laudamotion could lease its aircraft to other companies instead of for its own use. The industry forum “Airliners.de” wrote on Thursday that Condor (Thomas Cook) may take utilize all of Laudamotion’s aircraft under a wet-lease contract. However, Thomas Cook were non-committal. "We are in talks with Laudamotion and as soon as something can be announced, then we will announce it."
AUA also confirms talks about cooperation
The press spokesman for competitor Austrian Airlines (AUA) also confirmed on Thursday that it is in discussions with Niki buyer Niki Lauda about some kind of co-operation. AUA, like Eurowings, belongs to the Lufthansa Group. All these negotiations seem to involve so-called ACMI services. In this case, Laudamotion might lease aircraft and crews to AUA. ACMI is aviation shorthand for the leasing of aircraft, crew, maintenance and insurance.
"The background to this story is an increasing demand for European flights", said AUA spokesman Peter Thier in the aviation forum "Austrian Aviation Net". Should Laudamotion actually lease its aircraft and crews only to other companies, there would not be any incremental benefit to the end customers.
Turbulent Niki sales process
The German AUA parent, Lufthansa, had originally been awarded the contract for the Niki aircraft by the creditors of Air Berlin, but that plan failed due to a ruling by the European Commission who were concerned about consequential restrictions on competition. So, Lufthansa withdrew its offer for Niki. Then, the British aviation company IAG tried and failed to purchase Niki for its low-cost Vueling airline due a dispute over the insolvency. Ultimately, this convoluted sales process sales process was decided in Vienna, the airline founder Niki Lauda surprisingly emerged as the victorious bidder, you could say that Niki joined Lauda.
Now, Niki Lauda wants the combined airline to start operations in March under the Laudamotion name. Its first routes will be announced soon. According to “Airliners.de, its booking system already has pre-loaded flight plan data and bookings might be possible this week. There was no response from Laudamotion to the APA request.