Budget carrier Air Berlin remains confident of taking a share of the increasingly competitive low-cost German market, while eyeing further growth through its partnership with Austria's Niki.

Air Berlin recently acquired a 24% shareholding in Niki, the carrier created by former racing driver Niki Lauda from the remnants of Aero Lloyd Austria.

Speaking after a meeting of low-fare carriers in Reykjavik, Air Berlin City Shuttle manager Marc Heinicke said: "We can strengthen our position in the Austrian market using Niki's brand name – we've teamed up with the best marketing testimonial [in the Austrian market] that you can think of."

But partnership with Niki, he adds, "is not going to distract Air Berlin at all. This move has been made to serve the Austrian market better and to potentially move into Eastern Europe and into the new countries joining the European Union."

Meanwhile, in return for its market knowledge and brand presence, Niki stands to benefit from Air Berlin's IT systems, marketing and distribution facilities.

The two carriers codeshare on Air Berlin's services between Dusseldorf and Vienna, but Heinicke says this is likely to expand. "There will be nothing new for the summer, but by winter we will develop the partnership," he says.

Under its summer programme, however, Niki will commence low-cost services into Air Berlin's Majorcan base, where the German carrier has developed a niche market.

Source: Flight Daily News