The Ryanair-owned leisure carrier will receive 18 new Airbus A320ceo (current-engine-option) aircraft until summer next year, to both expand and replace its fleet.
This comes after a dispute with Lufthansa Group over Laudamotion’s current aircraft. The Austrian airline, founded when former Formula One world Champion Niki Lauda took over Air Berlin’s Niki earlier this year, is operating five Airbus A320 and four A321, which are all leased from Lufthansa.
After Niki went bankrupt in December last year, Lufthansa was fast to purchase its remaining fleet from lessors. Laudamotion, who then started to lease some former Niki aircraft from Lufthansa, accused the German flag carrier of unfair increases to leasing fees but refused to buy the aircraft.
To avoid a court hearing on November 18 in London to solve this dispute judicially, Laudamotion will re-deliver all nine aircraft of its current fleet to Lufthansa Group between the end of this year and June 2019.
Lufthansa will likely find good use for the returned aircraft, as low cost subsidiary and biggest Laudamotion competitor Eurowings is constantly expanding its flight plan, both in and outside of Germany.
Irish low cost giant Ryanair owns 75% of Laudamotion since August this year, while Niki Lauda, founder of the airline, still holds the remaining 25%. Many Laudamotion flights are currently operated by Ryanair Boeing 737 aircraft, as the Austrian carrier is waiting for the now ordered additional Airbus A320s. The airline’s mostly Germany and Austria-based flight plan is too extensive to operate all scheduled flights by its own airplanes and crew.
Meanwhile, Laudamotion has announced several route expansions. The airline intends to deploy three aircraft at Stuttgart Airport (STR), starting summer 2019, these will be operating a total of 17 new routes. It has also launched a twice-daily route between its home base Vienna and Ryanair hub London Stansted earlier this month. Several other new connections are due to start – or have already started – this month.
As mentioned by CEO Gruber, Laudamotion aims to carry more than five million total passengers in 2019.
Jakob Wert is an aviation journalist from Germany. He built up the website IFN.news and is the Editor-In-Chief of International Flight Network.