BUDGET CARRIER Air Niki has grounded its planes, stranding thousands of passengers, after filing for insolvency protection.
The company has about 20 planes serving resorts in southern Europe and north Africa.
It was founded by Niki Lauda, the Austrian ex-F1 racing champion, but he sold it to Air Berlin in 2011.
On Wednesday, Lufthansa cancelled its plan to buy Niki after the European Commission signalled that it would not approve the merger by Dec. 21.
In contrast to its debt-saddled mother corporation, Niki was a profitable budget airline until Air Berlin was declared bankrupt in August.
According to German newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung (SZ), Frank Kebekus, Air Berlin’s chief insolvency administrator, was attempting to negotiate a sale of Niki to British travel operator Thomas Cook in order to prevent the subsidiary’s insolvency.