When IAG disclosed its plan to acquire Niki in December 2017, the group's chief executive Willie Walsh described the Austrian carrier as the "most financially viable part of Air Berlin".
IAG was ultimately unsuccessful in its bid to take over the Vienna-based carrier – instead, founder Niki Lauda secured the bulk of the assets – but Walsh's confidence in the innate strength of Niki's business model seems to be borne out by destinations that successor Laudamotion has chosen for the summer.
The airline's website shows the carrier plans to operate from Basel to Heraklion and from Dusseldorf to Ibiza and Malaga. From Vienna, the airline will fly to Brindisi, Ibiza, Kalamata, Lamezia Terme, Malaga, Paphos, Pisa and Santorini.
Spanish island destination Palma de Mallorca features prominently in Laudamotion's plans, with flights programmed from Basel, Berlin Tegel, Cologne, Dusseldorf, Frankfurt, Graz, Hannover, Innsbruck, Linz, Salzburg, Stuttgart, Vienna and Zurich.
Laudamotion also plans to operate from Zurich to Corfu, Fuerteventura, Heraklion, Ibiza, Lanzarote, Olbia and Rhodes.
FlightGlobal schedules data indicates that the majority of Laudamotion's new routes were previously operated by Air Berlin and Niki.
Data for June 2017 indicates that the combination of Niki and Air Berlin operated flights to Palma from Berlin Tegel, Cologne, Dusseldorf, Frankfurt, Hannover, Stuttgart, Vienna and Zurich.
Last summer, Niki flew from Vienna to Brindisi, Chania, Ibiza and Kalamata. The carrier also flew from Zurich to Corfu, Heraklion, Ibiza, Lanzarote and Rhodes. Flights to Olbia were meanwhile operated by Air Berlin.
Fitting the mould of a traditional leisure carrier, Laudamotion plans to operate the vast majority of its new routes at low frequency: between once and thrice weekly. Only a select number of flights to Majorca are to be operated daily.
The airline's decision to appoint Andreas Gruber, formally a network planner with Niki, as a managing director completes the picture of an airline set to follow its predecessor's model closely.
Following the insolvency filings by Niki and Air Berlin last year, a number of rivals announced plans to move into the markets the two carriers were vacating. EasyJet, in particular, moved into former Air Berlin markets in Germany with its purchase of assets at Tegel from the former Etihad equity partner. Germania also expanded in Tegel and other markets in the wake of Air Berlin's demise.
FlightGlobal schedules data shows that Laudamotion will face significant competition this summer from Eurowings, EasyJet, TUIfly and Condor in Germany, from Eurowings in Austria too, and from Edelweiss in Switzerland.
Eurowings will be a rival on nine German routes to Palma, including from Berlin, Cologne, Dusseldorf, Hannover and Stuttgart.
The competition from Eurowings between Austria and Palma is likewise pronounced: the Lufthansa subsidiary will be Laudamotion's only rival on the routes from Linz, Graz, Salzburg and Vienna.
Condor and TUIfly will both compete with Laudamotion on the routes to Palma from Cologne, Dusseldorf, Frankfurt, Hannover and Stuttgart.
EasyJet and Germania will contest the Tegel-Palma market. Ryanair also intends to operate that route this summer. All three airlines serve Palma from another Berlin airport, Schonefeld.
Ryanair will offer a competing to the Spanish island destination from Frankfurt – as will Lufthansa – and also from Cologne and Dusseldorf. Norwegian will be a rival on the Hannover and Dusseldorf routes to Palma.
On the Basel route, Laudamotion will challenge Edelweiss, Germania, Swiss and Vueling.
Overall, on the busier German routes, Laudamotion will face an average of four competitors on each city pair.
At present, no other airline appears to be planning scheduled services from Innsbruck to Palma this summer.
From Vienna, Laudamotion will be up against Eurowings on the routes to Brindisi, Chania, Ibiza and Kalamata. Austrian also flies to Chania from Austria's capital.
On its routes from Zurich, Laudamotion's biggest competitor will be Edelweiss. The Swiss leisure carrier will a rival on all the routes Laudamotion is to operate from the city. Its Zurich network will also bring into competition with Aegean Airlines, Germania, Helvetic, Swiss and IAG budget unit Vueling.
Deeper competition with IAG may also be in prospect. Following the airline group's unsuccessful bid to buy Niki, Walsh said in February that it planned to grow "organically" within the Austrian market through the expansion there of Vueling.
Laudamotion's decision to operate into some of the most heavily contested leisure markets in Europe suggests that the carrier either has strong confidence in its ability to extract good yields on those routes, or that it was simply easier to replicate Niki's previous network.
Having bid successfully to take over Niki assets from its administrators in January, the former Formula 1 racing driver Lauda decided to relaunch it in March, giving himself just two months to create a new airline, recruit pilots and cabin crew and sell tickets – a tall order by any measure.
Some hint of a rushed pace in the new airline's development perhaps lies in Laudamotion's decision to recruit rival Thomas Cook to help market tickets and take over operational functions – "including traffic control and crew planning" – as a service provider.
Then there are the discussions Laudamotion is undertaking with Lufthansa, with the intention of wet-leasing aircraft to Eurowings for the summer. Speaking to FlightGlobal at the A4E Aviation Summit in Brussels earlier this month, Lufthansa chief executive Carsten Spohr indicated a sense of urgency when he said "time is running out" for Lauda to conclude a deal if he was to have it in place before his carrier started flights. Any deal is still to be concluded.
Whatever the rationale behind Laudamotion's choice of network plan and business model, it will be very soon face its commercial test.
Source: Cirium Dashboard