niki takes on Austrian on Vienna-Innsbruck route; first E190s due for delivery this summer

Image: Landing
Vienna-based niki operates a fleet of nine Airbus and competes directly with Austrian on nine of its top 11 routes. In 2008 the airline started new services to Innsbruck, Milan and Stockholm all of which are served by its bigger rival.

When some years ago Austrian Airlines painted an aircraft depicting famous and successful Austrians Niki Lauda was conspicuous by his absence. Despite being a three-time Formula 1 World Champion it seems that his position as a rival airline boss with Lauda Air disqualified him from consideration. In 2000 Lauda Air (which was started in 1979) was acquired by Austrian and Niki went off to head up the short-lived Jaguar F1 racing team.

However, the airline bug could not be shaken off and at the end of 2003 he returned to the fray by purchasing the remains of Aero Lloyd Austria and starting charter operations with two A320s and an A321. Having already used his surname for his first airline, this time he used his first name, Niki. In early 2004 airberlin took a 24% share in the fledgling carrier and on 13 May 2004 City Shuttle services were launched to Rome, Warsaw and Zurich.

Image: Speaking
The man who needs no introduction: Seen here (below) with Kerstin Lindberg Göransson, Managing Director, Stockholm-Arlanda Airport at the inauguration of the Vienna-Stockholm service in May. Two other destinations were added during 2008 – Milan Malpensa in March and triple-daily flights to Innsbruck in November – a route that SkyEurope operated for just seven months until May 2008.

Steady but profitable growth

Since 2004 the airline has expanded cautiously compared with other low-cost carriers and now has just nine Airbus aircraft – six A320s, two A319s and one A321. This winter eight of these are based in Vienna with one aircraft based in Salzburg. A total of 2.2 million passengers were carried in 2008 and the airline expects to report a profit, as it has done each year since it launched.

The airline still operates a mix of scheduled and charter services. This winter the scheduled network from Vienna consists of 14 destinations though three of these are low frequency ‘leisure’ routes to destinations in the Canary Islands.

These routes give niki an 8.4% share of scheduled capacity at Vienna this winter making it the second biggest carrier after Austrian (48.0% of seats) but ahead of partner airberlin (5.9% from six routes to Germany), SkyEurope (5.3% from 13 routes) and Lufthansa (5.2% from six German routes).

On niki’s 11 biggest routes it faces direct competition from Austrian on nine of them with other carriers also competing on several routes. It does not compete directly with SkyEurope on any route.

Route niki frequency Austrian
Other carriers
(weekly frequency)
Frankfurt 11 32 Lufthansa (28), Adria Airways (16)
Innsbruck 18 40  
Milan Malpensa 11 25  
Moscow Domodedovo 6 25 Transaero (3)
Munich 12 25 Lufthansa (31)
Nuremberg 5 13 airberlin (6)
Palma de Mallorca 7  
Paris CDG 11 21 Air France (21)
Rome Fiumicino 6 14  
Stockholm Arlanda 6 20  
Zurich 13 Swiss (28)
Source: OAG Max Online for w/c 5 January 2009

Milan, Stockholm and Innsbruck added in 2008

Three new destinations were added during 2008. Milan Malpensa services were started in March, Stockholm Arlanda flights commenced in May while triple-daily flights to Innsbruck began on 2 November. This is a route that SkyEurope operated between October 2007 and 25 May 2008.

Image: Balls
What every good Christmas tree should have been adorned with this winter – a set of four niki-branded baubles, available from the airline’s website shop for just €18.

The only routes that have been dropped so far are Warsaw (which lasted less than a year) and a double-daily service to London Stansted which began in November 2004 and ended on 1 May 2007 by which time it had become just a daily service with flights departing from Vienna at 05:55.

Airbus and Embraer aircraft joining fleet in 2009

Niki has placed an order for 10 Embraer 190s the first of which will be delivered in May and June of this year. An A321 will join the fleet in March, though this will simply replace an A320 which is currently being leased from Vueling. Whether the E190s will be used to start new routes or increase frequency on existing routes is not clear. It will also receive a further eight Airbus aircraft between 2009 and 2015 as part of a major order placed by its partner airberlin.

Image: Embraer E190
Niki’s first Embraer E190 is due for delivery in May. expects the aircraft to be used on the domestic route to Innsbruck and to help increase frequencies on other key business routes such as Frankfurt, Munich and Zurich.


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