January 24, 2018 / 2:33 PM / 2 years ago

Niki Lauda could run out of pilots: Niki labor boss

VIENNA (Reuters) - Former motor racing champion Niki Lauda may not have enough pilots for the planned relaunch of his Niki airline in March unless he offers attractive contracts, the head of the airline’s works council said on Wednesday.

Former motor racing champion Niki Lauda talks to journalists during a meeting with Niki's employees at Vienna airport in Schwechat, Austria, January 24, 2018. REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger

Lauda, who won the bidding for the insolvent airline he founded after months of legal disputes, has said he has secured 15 aircraft to restart the carrier under the name Laudamotion by the end of March.

He told staff on Wednesday that everyone would get a chance to sign a new contract with salaries broadly unchanged, but did not elaborate on the conditions, employees who joined the staff meeting in Vienna said.

After months of uncertainty, many of the nearly 1,000 employees have applied to other airlines such as Austrian Air (LHAG.DE) and Eurowings, which began advertising for Niki staff weeks ago.

“Around 90 percent of Niki’s 220 pilots are currently in an application process with other airlines,” works council chief Stefan Tankovits told journalists on the sidelines of the staff meeting. “(People) are still skeptical,” he said.

There are reservations about Lauda among Niki employees as previously he has not provided contracts under a collective wage agreement.

Asked about the possibility there might be not enough pilots to restart operations in the Spring, Tankovits said: “This is to be feared ... that will certainly become a critical issue.”

Tankovits, who is a pilot himself, said around 180 pilots were needed to operate the 15 planes.

He called on Lauda to talk to staff representatives about future conditions and pay. “I think it is very important to reach consensus with the staff to convince them to stay.”

Niki planes have been granted around 1,700 slots, or about 0.8 percent of available slots in Austria, for the summer season which begins late March. The airline plans to focus on tourist destinations in Turkey, Greece and Spain.

Reporting by Kirsti Knolle; Editing by Mark Potter

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