Airline deal

Legal dispute threatens Niki sale to IAG/Vueling

The planned sale of grounded leisure airline Niki to IAG/Vueling could be at risk due to a legal dispute over who is responsible for handling the insolvency.

January 10, 2018
The future of Niki remains unclear.
Photo: Lenthe/

IAG’s budget airline Vueling looked set to gain a major foothold in Germany, Austria and Switzerland with the takeover of Niki for just €36.5 million. Under a deal agreed in late December, the British-Spanish airline group would take over 15 of its 21 leased A320s, 740 of its 1,000 staff and all of its slots at Vienna, Düsseldorf, Munich, Palma and Zürich airports. Niki still retains its operating licence, including slots, despite its insolvency filing and grounding on December 13.

But this deal, which followed the failed Lufthansa offer worth €192 million due to European Commission objections, now could be at risk.

Airline passenger rights organisation Fairplane is trying to get insolvency proceedings of the Austrian-based airline, a former Air Berlin subsidiary, transferred from a Berlin court to one in Vienna, claiming that this would better protect passenger rights. The Berlin county court backed this view in a verdict this week but Niki has now appealed to the highest German administrative court, the Bundesgerichtshof, to over-rule the verdict on the grounds that most of its business was in Germany, not in Austria.

The legal dispute could mean that the IAG deal sealed by Niki’s insolvency administrator Lucas Flöther, who was appointed by the Berlin court in December, is effectively invalid. In response, the experienced insolvency expert said he plans to secure the deal through two parallel insolvency filings, one in Berlin and one in Vienna.

IAG has confirmed that it still wants to go ahead with the deal even if the insolvency proceedings do get transferred from Germany to Austria. Vueling declared: “We remain interested in Niki and reaffirm our cooperation with all relevant parties in order to make a success of the purchase of Niki assets through our new Austrian subsidiary company.”

Niki is now working on resuming flights with a new owner, Austrian news agency APA reported. The airline wants to start selling tickets again in February and then take off again at the end of March under the summer 2018 schedule. However, this will be without managing director Oliver Lackmann who will leave the company in February.

Meanwhile, Easyjet successfully launched flights from Berlin-Tegel last Friday (January 5) following approval to take over 25 former Air Berlin planes, and associated slots. The British low-cost airline is initially operating 15 planes on 19 routes, with two own jets and 13 leased planes. These will be gradually replaced by the former Air Berlin planes once staff have undergone full operational training and the planes have been integrated into its fleet.

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