British Airways Parent Expected to Take Over Austrian Airline NIKI

NIKI was driven into insolvency with the collapse of air berlin and withdrawl of support from Etihad. It was expected that the Austrian carrier would go to Lufthansa (specifically their low cost subsidiary Eurowings), but European competition regulators shut down that possibility.

The low cost full service airline founded by ex-Grand Prix driver Niki Lauda started service in 2003 and was merged into air berlin in 2011.

Copyright: gordzam / 123RF Stock Photo

As part of the workout plan avoiding liquidation, it was expected that the air berlin would sell its 49% stake in Niki to Etihad providing the German carrier with a cash infusion and merging Niki into a joint venture with German airline TUIfly along with a swap of aircraft between air berlin and the new German leisure airline venture however that never came to fruition and Etihad was simply unwilling to light additional cash on fire to save air berlin.

Niki Lauda sought to repurchase the carrier but has withdrawn his bid, leaving IAG as the lone remaining company seeking to negotiate a purchase of assets. It’s believed they are bidding 40 million euros.

IAG is the parent of British Airways, Iberia, Aer Lingus, and Vueling as well as new transatlantic low cost carrier LEVEL. Such an acquisition would give IAG a Vienna base of operations.

Qatar Airways is the largest shareholder in IAG. They serve Vienna with two peak daily departures from Doha. It will be interesting to see whether codesharing between Qatar and NIKI develops, providing the Gulf carrier with additional feed.

Meanwhile British Airways and Iberia are part of a revenue-sharing transatlantic joint venture with American Airlines (and Finnair). Will NIKI feed be enough to bring back an American Airlines flight to Vienna? I imagine that flight would come from Philadelphia, which American now considers to be ‘their transatlantic gateway’ rather than New York JFK ‘which serves niche business markets’.

Of course even with British Airways parent IAG as the last bidder standing for NIKI assets it’s possible that no deal comes to fruition.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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