How Vienna Is Becoming A Low Cost Carrier Battleground

Just a couple of days ago Wizz Air announced that it would be adding an additional aircraft to its Vienna base. This takes the carrier to six aircraft flying out of the central European city. The move is another sign of how Vienna is heating up as a destination for low cost carriers on the continent.

Wizz air has just added six new aircraft to Vienna. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

In the press release that came out last week, Wizz Air said the following about its decision:

“The new Airbus A321 will join the fleet in the middle of December, enabling the start of six new long-awaited services from Vienna to Alicante, Bremen, Chisinau, Naples, Oslo and Porto and the increase of frequencies of the airline’s existing Eindhoven and Tel Aviv routes.

The Austrian base of Wizz Air at Vienna International Airport (VIE) was established in June 2018. According to the airline, after only one year of successful operations it was able to expand and grow its fleet to six Airbus aircraft. With the six new services that will be launching, Wizz Air now offers 38 routes to 23 countries from Vienna.

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However, Wizz Air is going up against some tough competition in Vienna.

Laudamotion

With its head office in Budapest, Hungary, Wizz Air is expanding into the home turf of Austrian low cost carrier Laudamotion. Last year, Laudamotion announced a new aviation partnership with fellow low cost carrier Ryanair. As part of this deal, the Irish airline is initially taking a 75% stake in Laudamotion.

Austrian low cost airline Laudamotion has significant activity in and out of Vienna’s airport. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

This agreement with Ryanair will foster the growth and expansion of Laudamotion in Austria which, according to the website, currently has a fleet of ten Airbus aircraft. Ryanair will be providing financial and management support to Laudamotion with the addition of six wet-lease aircraft for the busy summer season. This will enable Laudamotion to complete an extensive 21 aircraft flying programme starting this month.

LEVEL, Eurowings and more

It’s been almost a year since IAG low cost carrier LEVEL made an announcement regarding establishing a base in Vienna. The group had plans to base four of its Airbus A321 aircraft in the city, initially flying them to 14 European destinations including Palma, Majorca and London Gatwick as well as Barcelona, Malaga, Venice, Ibiza, Paris Charles de Gaulle, Milan Malpensa, Dubrovnik, Larnaca, and Bilbao.

In the original announcement, IAG Chief Executive Willie Walsh said the following:

“We are launching this new short-haul subsidiary to provide Austrian consumers with more flight choices across Europe. These flights will be branded as LEVEL to build upon the huge success of our new long-haul low-cost operation. We will serve the Austrian market with low-cost, reliable flights and will initially create around 200 new jobs at our Vienna base.”

LEVEL is another low-cost carrier with many flights out of Vienna. Photo: Wikipedia

Vienna is also easyJet’s home on the European continent. As Brexit unfolds, the British airline has made preparations by obtaining an Austrian Air Operator’s Certificate to allow for continued operations in the EU27.

Eurowings, Lufthansa’s low-cost subsidiary, has had a base in Vienna since 2015. Destinations flown from Vienna are extensive and include Barcelona, Birmingham, Cologne/Bonn, Düsseldorf, Faro, Gran Canaria, Hannover, Lanzarote, Málaga, Rome–Fiumicino and Tenerife–South.

Eurowings established a base in Vienna in 2015. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Reaction from Vienna airport

According to a 2018 Financial Times article, one reason for Vienna’s boom is because of Air Berlin’s collapse. As such, the airport has a new-found popularity with these budget carriers attempting to fill the void.

The same Financial Times article also suspects that Vienna’s popularity is due to the airport’s “volume incentive”. Airlines that base at least three aircraft at Vienna, reaching over 750,000 departing passengers a year receive a rebate of €540 per hundred people. The rebate levels get better as passenger numbers increase.

Wizz Air flies 38 routes out of Vienna. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Last year, a Politico news article noticed the trend and spoke with Vienna airport CEO Julian Jäger:

“We are a bit late in terms of the low-cost revolution…[since 2017 things have changed] very quickly, in a very short period of time,”

To handle to spike in passenger traffic, the airport is considering third runway as a long-term solution. The CEO believes this would be ready by the late 2020s. However, similar to other airports like London Heathrow, the airport is getting immense public resistance to expansion plans.

It will be interesting to see which airlines thrive and which ones lose market share due to the fierce competition. However, all of this sounds great for travelers, who will benefit from price wars. Do you think there is enough of a market in Vienna to handle so many low cost carriers? Or will some inevitably get pushed out due to an overcrowded market?

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