Austrian Airlines Seeks Assistance With Loss Making Domestic Routes

Austrian Airlines is seeking assistance from local governments and from the European Commission’s Public Service Obligations (PSO) scheme to help subsidize loss-making domestic routes, according to CH-Aviation.

Austrian Airlines Seeks Assistance With Loss Making Domestic Routes
Austrian Airlines to close domestic hubs. Photo;Wikipedia

In an effort to reduce expenditure, the Vienna based airline plans to close six of its regional hubs. All domestic flight operations will be from its central hub in the nation’s capital. By doing this, the Lufthansa subsidy hopes to save money by reducing staff and crew travel costs involved with running a regional hub.

Austrian to replace Dash 8s with A320s

A press release by the red-white-red national carrier said that all of its staff in the regional hubs would be given the opportunity to relocate to Vienna.

Former Lauda Air A320
Staff in the regional hubs can relocate to Vienna. Photo: Mark Finlay/Flickr

Along with the centralization of its domestic operations, Austrian also plans to replace 18 Dash 8-400 turboprops with Airbus A320s by 2021. The Star Alliance airline currently operates 17 daily domestic flights to Innsbruck, Klagenfurt, Salzburg, and Graz.

flights in Austria
Austrian domestic flights are not long distances. Image: GCMap

In terms of flying distance, the popular skiing gateway of Innsbruck is the furthest from Vienna, at a distance of 387 km (240 miles). The shortest is Graz, which is just 145 km (90 miles) away.

Austrian Airlines CEO wants the airline to be environmentally responsible

When talking to website AIR TRANSPORT WORLD Austrian Airlines CCO Andreas Otto said,

“It is very important to proceed together with the local governments. Our long-term goal is also part of our environmental responsibility.”

Railjet now connects VIE with the city of Linz. Photo: Austrian Airlines

He went on to explain the airlines desire to partner with Austrian Federal Railways, as they have already done by linking Vienna International Airport (VIE) and the city of Linz. The new service, aptly named Railjet, departs the airport every half hour for the 1h 41min journey.

If you listen to Austrian Airlines CEO Andreas Otto, he will tell you that the airlines domestic routes are an essential part of Austrian’s network, as they act as a feeder for international routes. He points out that the vast number of passengers that use Austrian Airlines domestic flights are not traveling point-to-point, but are connecting on to other flights.

Austrian Airlines domestic flights are feeders for international flights

Currently, Austrian Airlines transport over a half-million passengers per year on its domestic network. The vast majority of these passengers are transferring to other flights leaving out of VIE.

The majority of passengers on domestic flights are connecting to international destinations. Photo: Austrian Airlines.

Listening to what the Austrian Airlines CEO said, I have a feeling that without assistance from regional governments or the European Union, Austrian Airlines will cut its domestic routes and only operate the ones that are profitable.

The first step in the process was to close regional hubs and run all the domestic flights out of Vienna. The second step was the announcement that Austrian was going to replace its 76 seat turboprops with160 seat A320s.

While I can see an A320 linking Vienna and Innsbruck during the ski season, the aircraft does not make sense the rest of the year and certainly not for the short flight to Graz.

Realistically I think Otto’s mention of cooperating with the railways is the way to go. Vienna Airport has its own railway station that connects with the city center and all the cities in Austria that Austrian Airlines currently serve.