Air Berlin has appointed Thomas Suritsch to succeed Christian Lesjak as managing director of its Austrian low-cost subsidiary Niki, with immediate effect.

Lesjak has "decided to the leave the company", says Air Berlin.

The German carrier's chief executive Stefan Pichler had said in March – a month after joining the group – that he planned several senior management changes as part of his turnaround plan.

Lesjak had become Niki's managing director in 2012 after working in different roles both at the Vienna-based carrier and its parent.

His successor Suritsch was previously vice-president of crew operations at Air Berlin, where he "significantly improved" pilot and flight-attendant productivity by reducing the number of crew bases and introducing a new staff roster, the group says. Between 2002 and 2010, Suritsch was managing director of Austrian Airlines' now-defunct leisure unit Lauda Air.

He will jointly manage Niki with Christina Hackl, who is newly appointed to the carrier's board. Effective 1 June, she will be responsible for commercial management. She previously served as senior vice-president of revenue management and pricing at Air Berlin.

Pichler plans to build up Niki – which has a lower cost base than its parent – as a growth driver for the group by serving routes "with a sharp focus on tourism" across its home region of Germany, Austria and Switzerland.

Source: Cirium Dashboard