Niki announced plans to increase its fleet by a third, from 12 to 16 aircraft in 2010, to take advantage of increased demand as a result of SkyEurope’s bankruptcy (Agence France Presse, 14-Sep-2009). Niki has also benefited from Austrian Airlines’ reduced capacity. It plans to hire 100 new employees, for a workforce of 600. The carrier stated it plans to increase services to Moscow, Paris, Rome, Sofia and Bucharest.
Niki to expand as its benefits from SkyEurope's collapse and reduced capacity by Austrian Airlines
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Airberlin: airline's latest, more radical, restructuring gets help from TUIFly and Lufthansa
Airberlin's operations are to be split into three. First, there will be a core network airline with hubs in Berlin and Duesseldorf, deploying approximately half the current Air Berlin Group fleet. Second, there are plans for a new leisure airline, combining part of airberlin's fleet with TUIFly. Third, a significant part of airberlin's fleet will be wet-leased to the Lufthansa Group.
As a result of these moves the operating fleet of the core airberlin network airline will slip from second to third in Germany and risks becoming subscale. Eurowings will rise from third to second, and the expanded new TUIFly will go from fifth to fourth (overtaking Thomas Cook Group's Condor).
For several years airberlin has been unable to break the cycle of losses and successive restructuring initiatives, in spite of repeated bailouts from airberlin's 29% shareholder Etihad. A number of details are still to be clarified. These include the detailed route networks for the different operators, the network airline's strategy for feed, and the balance of charter versus scheduled flights in the new leisure airline. However, for now and with help from competitors and Etihad, airberlin looks to have ensured at least some kind of future.
TUIfly, easyJet, airberlin, NIKI, Eurowings eye partners in Germany's aviation market upheaval
Ryanair's expansion and Brexit are among factors which may have prompted reports about possible consolidation and other forms of co-operation involving Germany's leading airlines. These include - apparently false - speculation that easyJet has considered buying a stake in TUIFly (possibly to ensure that it has access to EU traffic rights post Brexit) and that TUIFly, a charter airline with growing seat-only sales, may be integrated with airberlin subsidiary NIKI and the TUIFly aircraft currently operating airberlin routes under wet lease.
An expanded TUIFly operation could, perhaps, better withstand fast-growing competition from Ryanair in Germany, although these stories have been denied. A more definitive development, announced by both parties, is that up to 40 of airberlin's narrow body fleet will be wet-leased to Lufthansa Group for its LCC Eurowings and Austrian Airlines. Airberlin will also put its leisure operations into a separate unit. These moves should partly alleviate airberlin's overcapacity problems, while accelerating the growth of Eurowings (further boosted by the possible integration of Brussels Airlines into the LCC).
Even if the other stories prove mere speculative, the frequency of such reports highlights the need for consolidation in Europe, whose centre is Germany. Moreover, they throw light on the rapid pace of change in business models in what has historically been a very conservative aviation market.