9 January 2004
VIENNA – Airline founder and ex-Formula One star Niki Lauda announced on Friday he is taking on Air Berlin as a partner in Europe’s first alliance of cut-rate airlines.
An announcement at a press conference said Air Berlin would take over 24 percent of Lauda’s new Austrian charter airline NIKI. The main goal of Niki Lauda and Air Berlin was to cover the Austrian and East European markets. In April, two more Airbus aircraft would join the small fleet.
In late November, Lauda started charter flights to mostly Mediterranean and Atlantic destinations. He had previously bought a majority holding in the small airline Aero Lloyd-Austria, whose German parent company faced insolvency.
Lauda said there would be one or two flights per week to Fuerteventura, Lanzarotte, Gran Canaria, Madeira, Mallorca and Egypt. He was also involved in cooperation talks with Sky Europe, which operated from Bratislava Airport.
In 2000 Lauda lost control of his previous airline, the financially-ailing Lauda Air which he had founded about two decades earlier. Lauda Air subsequently went over into 100 percent ownership by Austrian Airlines (AUA).
Lauda, aged 54, holds an airline captain’s licence, and plans to make some of the flights with his new airline himself.
Subject: German news