Austrian Further Extends Flight Suspension Until Mid-May

While Austria cautiously began easing its lockdown on Tuesday, its flag-carrier Austrian Airlines has announced it is extending its flight suspension until the 17th of May. The airline said in a statement on Thursday that it stands ready for a slow relaunch, depending on travel regulations. 

Austrian Airlines is suspending flights until mid-May. Photo: Austrian Airlines

Another two weeks

Austrian Airlines announced today that it is extending the suspension of commercial services. Operations were initially intended to resume on the 3rd of May, but this date has now been pushed back by an additional two weeks. The carrier cited continued worldwide entry-bans as the primary cause for the extension. 

Furthermore, the Lufthansa subsidiary said that the reinstating of regular flight operations depends not only on the lifting of travel bans but also on a related increase in demand. 

“In any case, we continue to stand ready to initiate a slow restart,” said Austrian Airlines CCO Andreas Otto in the statement. 

Airlift operations from Asia

Despite a lack of passenger services, Austrian will continue to operate special flights. Long-haul flights are operating from Vienna to Asia every day with the airline’s Boeing 777 and 767 aircraft.

So far, a total of 400 tonnes of relief supplies have been transported from China and Malaysia in an airlift operation the airline CCO calls “well-established.” Two aircraft arriving from China will land in Vienna just this afternoon carrying medical protective clothing.

The airline is only one of a significant number that has been redeploying commercial passenger planes to airlift cargo and essential medical supplies across the globe. Many, including Austrian, are even transforming aircraft cabins into cargo holds.

Unusual repatriation efforts

Since the 13th of March, Austrian Airlines has operated about 30 repatriation flights in cooperation with the Austrian government. The flights have all been piloted by a crew that has volunteered for the mission. Thanks to them, the airline has been flying some unusual routes. 

Repatriation efforts have seen the Austrian Airlines livery make special guest performances at airports in Buenos Aires, Lima, Santiago, Mexico City, Abuja in Nigeria, Denpasar in Indonesia, Christchurch, and Auckland (via Kuala Lumpur). It has even flown a 17-hour direct route from Vienna to Sydney.

Austrian Airlines
Austrian Airlines is looking to downsize its fleet post-corona. Photo: Getty Images

Reducing fleet post-corona

In another press release issued last week, Austrian said it is assuming that it will have 25-50% of the demand in summer 2020 compared to 2019, and that “pre-corona levels” would not be regained until 2023. The airline said it is in talks with the Austrian government and its owner Lufthansa over further support packages, while planning for a realignment post-corona that will include a reduction of the size of its fleet. 

CEO of Austrian, Alexis von Hoensbroech, said in the statement that:

“The world we will be flying into will be a different one. People will travel again, but the economy, tourism and passenger needs will have changed after the Corona crisis. We will align our company to master this challenge.”

Do you agree with the Austrian Airlines CEO? Will the needs of the travel industry change so significantly that most airlines will be reducing their fleets post-corona? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.