Austrian Extends Flight Grounding Until Mid-April

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Austrian Airlines has today, March 23rd, announced that, due to the coronavirus pandemic gripping the world, it will temporarily extend its cessation of flight operations until Sunday, April 19th.

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Austrian Airlines has grounded flights until mid-April. Photo: Austrian Airlines

According to the Vienna International Airport (VIE)-based airline, all of its scheduled flights have now been removed from the airlines’ automated booking system. Because of all the worldwide entry bans and drop in the number of people looking to fly, Austrian will cease all operations until at least April 19th.

Austrian to fly home nationals stranded while on holiday

The Star Alliance member will, however, offer the Austrian Federal Ministry of European and International Affairs two Boeing 777 aircraft to bring home Austrian citizens that got stranded while on holiday.

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The two long-haul 306-seat passenger aircraft will be sent to Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic, Havana, Cuba, and Mexico City, to bring home Austrian nationals that got stranded due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The Lufthansa Group airline had originally announced a temporary cessation of its scheduled flights until March 28th, 2020. Now, it has announced the extension of the grounding due to the ongoing COVID-19 emergency.

Following the cessation of flights, Austrian Airlines announced that existing passengers would be re-booked whenever possible on other flights or that they could keep their tickets and use them on later Austrian Airlines flights.

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“We kindly ask our passengers for their patience in light of the waiting times in processing their inquiries. I ensure everyone involved that our service employees will handle the rebooking of flights and requests as quickly as possible”, states Austrian Airlines CCO Andreas Otto.

The corona short-time working model

Together with the flight cancelations, the Austrian national flag carrier has worked with employee unions to agree to shorter working hours until at least mid-April.

The agreement the airline reached with its employees’ unions came after Austrian Airlines had already submitted an application with the Austrian Public Employment Service (AMS) to shorten its employee working hours.

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Austrian Airlines has reached an agreement about reduced hours for staff. Photo: Austrian Airlines

According to a press release by Austrian, the new working hours will us what it calls “corona short-time working” model. The agreement stipulates that employee working time can be cut to a minimum of 10% of what was considered as being normal working hours.

Staff will receive 90% of their salaries

While now not requiring staff to work their normal hours, the airline, with the help of subsidies from the Austrian Public Employment Service, has agreed to pay staff 90% of their normal salaries for one month starting from March 20th, 2020. The agreement also says that, if needs be, the current arrangement can be extended for up to six months.

Austrian Airlines
Austrian staff will receive 90% of their salary for a month. Photo: Getty

This all, of course, depends on how the coronavirus situation develops and for how long Austrian Airlines continues to not fly.

“I would like to thank the AMS for its quick and pragmatic assistance as well as the social partners for their good cooperation during the negotiations on short-time work”, says Austrian Airlines CEO Alexis von Hoensbroech. “This has significantly reduced the burden on Austrian Airlines for the time being. Now we are looking ahead and preparing to ramp up flight operations as soon as possible after the coronavirus-related standstill”, he added.

It is nice to see that the private sector and government can work together to help make sure that workers are not impacted too adversely by the current medical emergency.

It will be interesting to see if other airlines around the world can come up with similar agreements for their staff. What do you think of how Austrian Airlines is treating the coronavirus epidemic? Please let us know your thoughts in the comments.

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