Austrian Airlines CEO Confident In Green Pass Health Passport To Enable Travel

Austrian Airlines is witnessing positive trends in bookings for this year’s holiday season. However, to succeed in welcoming any significant amount of passengers in 2021, its CEO says that a European-wide health pass should be introduced sooner rather than later. Following a loss of €319 million for 2020, Alexis von Hoensbroech believes a ‘Green Pass’ to be the key to opening up the summer.

Austrian Airbus A320
The Austrian flag-carrier’s CEO believes a digital health pass is key to opening up the summer season. Photo: Getty Images

Between 50% and 70% of pre-crisis capacity by summer

Austrian Airlines presented its full-year financial results for 2020 on Thursday. As expected, the figures were deep in the red. However, the airline said that there are positive trends for the upcoming holiday season.

Its intentions are to operate at between 50% and 70% of pre-crisis levels. However, the schedule is under continuous review, and the carrier’s CEO is eager for a digital health pass to help stabilize demand.

“The decision to introduce a digital health pass, such as the ‘Green Pass’ advocated by Austrian Federal Chancellor Kurz, should be made sooner rather than later,” Austrian Airlines CEO Alexis von Hoensbroech said in a statement seen by Simple Flying.

“A European-wide health pass will be the door opener for the 2021 summer season. This has to be a digital pass and internationally recognized. Of course, a unified worldwide solution would be even better,” the Austrian flag-carrier’s chief executive continued.

The airline further said it assumes that a two-fold strategy consisting of vaccinations and testing would prevail for yet some time due to the slow rate of inoculations.

Austrian Airlines 767
Austrian Airlines halted all flight operations for 100 days in 2020. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

EU proposal on the way

Along with Greece, the Austrian government has been one of the driving forces behind an EU-wide digital pass that will allow holders to prove their vaccination status or COVID-test certificates across the bloc.

Other nations, such as France and Germany, have been in opposition due to concerns over discrimination and vaccine efficacy against new variants. However, the President of the European Commission has nonetheless stated that a legislative proposal for a Digital Green Pass will be ready before the end of the month.

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Historic losses for 2020

The COVID-crisis has not been kind to Austrian Airlines. The carrier suffered a historic loss of €319 million ($380 million) in 2020. Flight operations were brought to a complete standstill in March last year.

When they resumed in mid-June, capacity was brought back to about 30% of normal levels. However, September came along with a new wave of infections and travel restrictions and lockdowns as a result.

“Naturally, the standstill in flight operations in 2020 also led to a standstill in our accounts. (…) We would not be able to survive this crisis without loans, government aid, and support in the form of contributions made by employees, suppliers, and system partners”, von Hoensbroech said.

Austrian Airlines, Boeing 767, Retirement
Austrian Airlines has begun the process of downsizing its fleet. Photo: Austrian Airlines

Fleet downsizing but no layoffs

The airline recently waved goodbye to its very first Boeing 767. It will soon be joined by two of its siblings, all three successfully having been sold to MonoCoque Diversified. The Austrian flag-carrier has also let go of 18 Dash 8 turboprops and is in the process of selling seven A319 aircraft.

Meanwhile, it has not had to lay off any staff. The 550 or so employees that have left the airline did so through natural attrition, not filling vacant positions, or not renewing expiring contracts.