Niki (HG, Vienna) chief executive Oliver Lackmann says that regulatory concerns aside, he expects the carrier's amalgamation into a new European leisure airline group to be concluded ahead of schedule.

Last year, Niki's parent, Air Berlin (AB, Berlin Tegel), confirmed it would sell its 49.8% stake in the Austrian carrier to Etihad Airways (EY, Abu Dhabi Int'l) for EUR300 million (USD318 million). Thereafter, the Emirati carrier will contribute this shareholding to the new European leisure airline group - tentatively named Blue Sky - in which it will own 25%, TUI AG 24.8%, with Austria's NIKI Privatstiftung foundation holding the remaining 50.2%.

The new carrier's fleet will constitute five B737-700s and thirty-two B737-800s (courtesy TUI fly (Germany)) and twenty-one A321-200s courtesy Air Berlin. For its part, Niki's AOC will consist of A321s exclusively.

Commenting to Austrian Aviation Net on the project's latest developments, Lackmann said that he now expects the transition to be completed this March although this depends on any regulatory concerns being fully addressed.

As part of the transition, Niki will terminate flights from Vienna to thirteen European destinations over the course of the current quarter including Barcelona El Prat, Madrid Barajas, Valencia Manises, Malaga, Paris CDG, Hanover, Nice, Stockholm Arlanda, Hamburg Helmut Schmidt, Milan Malpensa, Rome Fiumicino, Malta, and Zurich. As previously reported, flights to Abu Dhabi Int'l will end on March 6. Additionally, routes from Vienna, Salzburg, and Graz to Air Berlin's Dusseldorf and Berlin Tegel hubs will be carried out by Air Berlin itself.

Niki will also assume the operation of all Air Berlin's contracts to certain leisure destinations in Southern Europe (excluding Italy, but including the Canary Islands and Madeira), North Africa, and Turkey effective summer 2017.