On May 20, Niki Lauda, founder of low-cost carrier Laudamotion, died at the age of 70 at University Hospital Zurich. The Vienna-born, former racecar driver was born on February 22nd, 1949 but was suffering from kidney problems and overall poor health. Lauda leaves a great legacy to both racing and aviation with his passing.
A racing legend
According to Reuters, Lauda first got himself into motor racing against his family’s wishes. However, his defiance paid off as he won three Formula One World Championships over the span of his career. Two of these were with Ferrari in 1975 and 1977 and the third was with McLaren in 1984.
Al Jazeera reports that a family spokeswoman released a statement upon his death:
“His unique achievements as an athlete and entrepreneur are and will remain unforgettable”
Rest in peace Niki Lauda.
Forever carried in our hearts, forever immortalised in our history. The motorsport community today mourns the devastating loss of a true legend.
The thoughts of everyone at F1 are with his friends and family. pic.twitter.com/olmnjDaefo
— Formula 1 (@F1) May 21, 2019
Lauda, Niki, Laudamotion
This next section may get confusing as the two airlines Lauda founded include his first name “Niki” and his family name “Lauda”. We’ll try to make it as clear as possible!
In 1979, Niki Lauda founded Austrian-based “Lauda Air”. In 1985 he went into full-time management of the airline after his 1985 retirement from F1 racing. Eventually Lauda would sell his stake in Lauda Air to Austrian Airlines.
18 years after founding Lauda Air, Niki Lauda would go on to start a second airline in 2003: “Niki”. The airline then merged with Air Berlin in 2011. Niki Lauda’s airline ambitions did not stop there, as he then took over the Austrian private jet operator Amira Air in 2016, renaming the airline “Laudamotion”. Upon the collapse of Air Berlin in 2017, Laudamotion took over Niki and its assets.
And most recently, Ryanair took a partial stake in Laudamotion in 2018 and later acquired 100% of the company in late January 2019. In a public statement, Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary said the following:
Niki Lauda will remain in our heart and our memory as a visionary leader, a legend of Formula 1 and an aviation pioneer. Niki was an exceptional entrepreneur whose courage and fighting spirit inspired millions. While we are devastated at his untimely passing, his spirit and vision will live on in Laudamotion, which proudly carries his name and his entrepreneurial spirit. It’s a sad day for Formula 1 and Laudamotion. Niki’s spirit and his legacy will live on forever. Niki and his family are all in our thoughts and prayers today. May he rest in peace.
Here are some other interesting facts about Niki Lauda:
- He was the holder of a commercial pilot’s license and would occasionally act as a captain on Niki’s Airbus jets (Aviation24.be).
- According to Wikipedia, Lauda was a Bombardier Business Aircraft brand ambassador.
- He got money for his first racing car by lying to his grandmother (Al Jazeera).
- Lauda also faked his high school diploma. This was done in order to get parental approval to begin car racing.
- The 1985 season was Lauda’s final season as a Formula One competitor, retiring with 25 race wins.
At 70 years old, Niki Lauda clearly had a passion and interest in the business of aviation as much as he did for motorsports and racing. Niki Lauda will be remembered as perfectionist, born competitor, and a tough businessman.