Interview with Niki Lauda in today's austrian newspaper KURIER:https://kurier.at/wirtschaft/niki-lauda ... 07.518.497
Translation by google:
KURIER: You're very successful at Mercedes, your twins are eight and you have a young wife. Why do you necessarily want an airline as a 68-year-old?
Niki Lauda: Everyone has their own ideas. Some people have the ideal to work and to go to the pension as early as possible and to lie in the sun. If someone does something that does not correspond to the ideal of beautiful life, then one wonders. I'm just different, what should I do? I can not sit still. It motivates me to accept new challenges, that's what I'm conditioned and trained in racing. A new challenge fascinates me, that's my motive.
The challenge as a life motto?
The harder it gets, in sports as well as in business, the more I am interested in something. I'm just starting to flip over when it gets complicated. That's why people often ask me, just like you do now, why are you doing this? Because it fascinates me. If I do not succeed, I can say that I have tried everything to implement my idea. If someone does it differently and better, I accept that. This is a very clear, straightforward way for me.
You have already founded several airlines and then quit. Sustainability as an airliner you can not just accuse.
In the 1970s I had the idea of flying with Fokkers against the state monopoly. Then I tried to bring with the Lauda Air against the monopoly of AUA a parallel airline in the air. Which was very difficult. At that time the state was of the opinion that there is only one carrier in Austria, there was no question of competition. Then Lufthansa wanted to participate, because they were convinced of the product Lauda Air. When Lufthansa wanted to release the AUA from the alliance with Swissair, with which it quickly went downhill, I was asked if I could also take in the AUA as a partner.
Why did AUA and you not work?
Economically, it was right that AUA, Lauda Air and Tyrolean, which was then private, work together. However, I completely underestimated the cultural difference between AUA and Lauda Air. Tyrolean boss Feitl and I thought, we will accelerate the AUA with our approach and achieve all together more. The reality was unfortunately different, the opposite happened. AUA wanted to prove to us that their path is the better one to reach their destination. I had made a wrong decision then and had to retire.
Why are you out at NIKI later?
In the three years that followed, when I was not allowed to do anything, I looked at low-cost concepts, such as easyJet. From the insolvency of Aero Lloyd I founded NIKI. At that time, the best way was to immediately get together with Air Berlin to plug in all the operating systems. I started with three planes. Eleven years later we had 21 airplanes, from the second year we have always had a positive balance. It all worked perfectly, until the partner Air Berlin began the big problems.
With Air Berlin founder Hunold you understood yourself well.
First yes. But I had warned him to take over the LTU, the most expensive airline in Germany in terms of costs. Because at the same time Air Berlin would be more expensive. The expansion of Air Berlin was much too fast in my opinion. When they were already making heavy losses, the CFO came to me and said we had to sell planes that belonged to NIKI and were financed normally because Air Berlin needs cash. We would have had to lease the planes back expensive. I have explained solving your problems myself, but not with my planes. Air Berlin put pressure on it. Then I said: Not with me, buy me my shares, if you want.
So you are out again.
Do you think I enjoyed saying goodbye to NIKI? That was my company. But I could not solve the problems with Air Berlin and in this constellation nothing else was possible. If NIKI is bankrupt today, I'm not responsible.
The employees are now angry and want to go to Vueling. Some suspect that you are behind the legal dispute as to whether the bankruptcy will be settled in Germany or Austria.
I understand that the employees are worried and annoyed by this insecurity and the back and forth. That's very clear. First of all, everything goes to Lufthansa. Then Vueling gets the contract, the CEO was already in Vienna and suddenly the legal dispute results in a new situation. But to blame for the whole story is, soberly analyzed, the NIKI CEO Lackmann. He has filed for bankruptcy in Berlin and not in Austria. Had he filed for bankruptcy here, the problem would have been solved long ago - whoever would have bought NIKI.
Why are you so badly in trouble with the German insolvency administrators?
Kebekus and Flöther wanted to deal with Air Berlin and NIKI together. That's why Lackmann has also registered in Berlin. Would have been a big, very lucrative job for the liquidators. I have criticized this from the beginning because I know that NIKI is an Austrian company. I finally founded it.
With which partners did you start the race this time?
As with the two previous offers with the tour operator Thomas Cook and his airline subsidiary Condor. I need an operational partner to fly in March. For example, for crew planning and sales. Everything must be solved if we get the contract.
And the planes? They landed at Lufthansa.
I have already negotiated with Lufthansa. We secured 15 planes. It will take three to four weeks until the airbuses of my on-demand carrier Lauda Motion get the necessary AOC (Air Operator's Certificate). Vueling, on the other hand, needs a new AOC, which will take at least three months. However, NIKI has to fly in March when the summer timetable begins.
You told the staff that the planes are already booked. How should this work?
We have already organized the workload for all 15 aircraft. With Thomas Cook but also with other tour operators were already conducted preliminary talks.
Will Vienna become the main location for NIKI again?
Yes, NIKI last had only two planes here. I want to rebuild Vienna and carry out the majority of flights from here. This will take some time, because most of the slots are currently in Germany. We also want to fly there, but the main location is Austria.
The financing is secured? The creditors' committee wants bank guarantees.
You can assume that the financing is secured. Of course, I can not name the purchase price publicly.
Can you reveal something about your concept?
Lauda Air has been awarded 35 times and was famous for its service. Also at NIKI we only had positive feedback. Today it is even easier to differentiate, because the economy passengers get nothing anymore. We have to transport passengers differently from A to B than the competition. You can only win by distinction and a better product. DO & CO will be back on board.
Again to the employees. At the Lauda Air, the flight attendants had to clean the toilets and the pilots of NIKI were employed by you at a personnel leasing company. They never had the reputation of being a social employer.
For me, flight attendants never had to clean toilets, such a nonsense. They only renewed the paper during a flight and wiped the basins. As this is usual today with all quality airlines. The personnel leasing company was chosen because the collective agreement in the industry was too limited for us in terms of flight times and schedule changes. I paid normally and the service hours and regulations were always respected.
What if the pilots demand a collective agreement?
With a collective agreement I have no problem at all. It will not be easy to re-motivate employees who have experienced so much negative. But that will be my main task. Together we have to find our way back to the old strength.