Austrian Airlines is poised for an exciting year ahead. The airline managed a turnaround after a challenging restructuring period and now operates profitably. It is also headed towards positive operating earnings in 2018 following strong passenger growth of more than one million customers, comprising a year-on-year rise of 8.5 percent. The solid demand by passengers and increasing competition in Vienna has led the Austrian carrier to lay the strategic foundations for the future.
One aspect of Austrian Airline’s new strategy is realigning and enhancing its intercontinental route network, as well as increasing its focus on the North American region. On April 29, 2019, Austrian Airlines will introduce year-round flights to and from Montreal to Vienna. A Boeing 767 will service the daily route during the 2019 summer schedule and five times per week throughout the winter season. Additionally, service to U.S. destinations has been improved. Existing routes, such as those to New York and Chicago, have been increased to daily service and Austrian’s new Premium Economy booking class was recently introduced on all of the airline’s long-haul aircraft serving the U.S.
Further strategic measures occurring are the expansion of the airline’s Airbus fleet from its current 36 planes to a total of 46 aircraft over the next three years. Simultaneously, Austrian will phase out its 18 turboprop aircraft with 76 seats. To balance this out, flight offerings from Vienna will be expanded by more than ten percent, given that jets belonging to the Airbus A320 family are considerably larger than the turboprops. “We will invest more than EUR 200 million in the expansion of our continental fleet and thus be able to significantly strengthen our position in Vienna,” the new Austrian Airlines CEO, Alexis von Hoensbroech, announced. “At the same time, this should also be considered as a clear challenge to the increasingly tough competition in Vienna, and we are prepared to take further steps to defend our position at our flight hub in Vienna,” he added.
In April, Lufthansa Aviation Training (LAT) will begin construction on expanding the simulator training center at Vienna Airport in order to create sufficient space for two additional A320 flight simulators, to the already existing four simulators, for pilot training purposes.
Triggered by plans to phase out the Dash aircraft, Austrian Airlines intends to reorganize decentralized, bilateral flight traffic between Austria and Germany within the Lufthansa Group. Austrian Airlines considers decentralized flight traffic to encompass all of its flights which do not depart from Vienna Airport, for example on the Salzburg-Frankfurt or Linz-Düsseldorf routes. Flights between Vienna and the federal provinces of Austria will remain unaffected at the moment.
As already announced, the four aircraft currently deployed by the Group sister airline SWISS, in Switzerland, under a wet lease agreement, will be transferred to Vienna at the end of the winter flight schedule. In the course of this, Austrian Airlines will transfer all existing decentralized flight crew bases located in Altenrhein, Graz, Innsbruck, Klagenfurt, Linz and Salzburg to Vienna. The 200 impacted employees will be offered the opportunity to work in Vienna.
Fleet decision, network simplification and transfer of the decentralized crew bases are three main aspects of the 10-point program called #DriveTo25, which the Austrian Airlines Management Board presented to the general public today. The new strategy was already acknowledged and approved at the most recent meeting of the Supervisory Board of Austrian Airlines held at the end of November 2018.
“On the basis of our strategic program, we want to give a major boost to the modernization of Austrian Airlines. We will reduce complexity, more strongly focus on the core business and concentrate our hub business in Vienna in order to strengthen our ability to make investments,” CFO Wolfgang Jani concluded.