Air Berlin teams with Niki

German carrier Air Berlin and Austria's Niki have agreed to set up what they describe as Europe's first major low-fare airline alliance. Air Berlin has taken a 24% stake in Niki, which was formed at the end of 2003 by ex-Formula 1 racing driver Niki Lauda after taking over the Austrian business of grounded German carrier Aero Lloyd. Air Berlin is hoping to gain increased capacity from the deal and use it to open up markets such as eastern Europe from Vienna. The airline began operating to the Austrian capital last year from Berlin.

Air Atlanta cleared

Air Atlanta Icelandic's newly established European division has been given a one-year approval from the US Department of Transportation to conduct services between the UK and USA. Single Sky boost

Europe's air traffic management (ATM) co-ordinator Eurocontrol and the European Commission (EC) have agreed a framework for future co-operation. The agreement sets out guidelines for the future working relationship between the two under the EC's Single Sky programme to reform Europe's fragmented ATM system. The two organisations will work together on the rules governing single skies and on harmonising ATM systems.

Third package review

The consultation period for the review of the European Commission's third package of liberalisation measures for air transport is due to end in mid-February. The EC sees a need to update the measures, which were introduced between 1992 and 1997. They set the basis for the single European aviation area covering areas such as state aid, free access for community carriers and air fares. The consultation was meant to have ended in May last year but has been extended.

Swiss seeks finance deal

Swiss International Air Lines is tapping shareholders for SFr70 million ($55 million) of its financing requirements. At least one shareholder, Swisscom, has already given provisional approval to the plan. The airline has been in talks with its two major private shareholders, UBS and Credit Suisse, since September last year over a credit line to handle "unforeseen developments" originally estimated at SFr500 million.

Vagn Sørensen to head AEA

Austrian Airlines chief executive Vagn Sørensen has been elected chairman of the Association of European Airlines during 2004. He succeeds Rod Eddington, chief executive of British Airways. A Danish national, Sørensen was previously executive vice-president and deputy chief executive of SAS Scandinavian Airlines, leaving in 2001.

Air France business move

Air France is launching an all-business- class product. It is preparing to introduce the service to seven destinations in oil-producing countries.

Source: Airline Business