Belfast Telegraph

Low-cost airline set up by F1 hero Lauda adds to fleet size

By John Mulligan

Laudamotion, the Austrian low-cost carrier in which Ryanair has taken a 75% stake, is to double its fleet to 18 aircraft for summer 2019.

It raises the stakes in what's set to be an intensifying battle between Aer Lingus owner IAG, which recently launched a base in Vienna for its low-cost Level airline.

That puts it in direct competition with Laudamotion, owned by former Formula 1 driver Niki Lauda.

Earlier this year, Ryanair acquired an initial 24.9% stake in Laudamotion and received EU approval this month to raise the stake to 75%.

Ryanair also has an option to buy all of Laudamotion in four years' time.

The commitment to add aircraft comes as Laudamotion said it achieved load factors - or the percentage of available seats sold - of more than 90% in its first summer season.

It added that the nine extra aircraft for summer 2019 will see it grow passenger numbers by at least 20%, to five million.

Ryanair expects Laudamotion to be profitable within three years and to eventually have a fleet of at least 30 aircraft.

It currently has four jets based at Vienna, and has also opened bases at Berlin's Tegel airport and in Dusseldorf.

Ryanair, headed by Michael O'Leary, is initially investing close to €100m in Lauda Motion. That includes the price for the 75% stake and €50m in working capital.

Laudamotion is expected to lose €150m in its first year, according to Ryanair.

Meanwhile, Chicago-based investment fund Harris Associates now owns 3.07% of Ryanair. It has previously held stakes in companies including Bank of Ireland.

Belfast Telegraph