June 18, 2018 / 10:49 AM / 9 months ago

Laudamotion in talks with Airbus, lessors over new planes

FILE PHOTO: A Laudamotion Airbus A320 plane is seen at the airport in Vienna, Austria, March 20, 2018. REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger/File Photo

BERLIN (Reuters) - Austrian airline Laudamotion, in which Ryanair (RYA.I) is buying a majority stake, is in talks with both Airbus (AIR.PA) and leasing companies to expand its fleet quickly as it seeks to establish itself following its rebirth from the remains of Air Berlin.

“It’s very hard. Airbus is sold out until end of 2020,” Laudamotion owner and former F1 racing champion Niki Lauda told journalists in Berlin on Monday. “But there are enough leasing firms,” he added.

Laudamotion currently has nine Airbus A320 planes and is using a further 10 Boeing (BA.N) 737 jets from Ryanair this year, taking its fleet to 19. It wants to reach a fleet of 30 planes within the next two years.

Laudamotion is currently focused on selling tickets at low prices to ensure its planes are full and to attract customers, Lauda said.

That’s a strategy similar to that of Ryanair, which regularly cuts prices to fill planes. Laudamotion achieved its targeted load factor of 85 percent in May, managing director Andreas Gruber said.

Ryanair is awaiting EU approval to increase its stake to 75 percent and Lauda said he expected the green light this summer.

Ryanair also has agreed an option to take its stake to 100 percent, though Lauda said he had committed to retaining a stake for three years. Lauda added that Ryanair planned to retain the Laudamotion brand.

Reporting by Victoria Bryan and Klaus Lauer; Editing by Edward Taylor and Maria Sheahan

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