Austrian Airlines will not make a decision on the renewal of its Boeing 767 long-haul fleet anytime soon. The carrier first wants to have a better understanding of the consequences of the Fit for 55 plan on emission reductions and taxation on hub airports such as Vienna, before it commits to new aircraft, CEO Annette Mann told AirInsight at the World Aviation Festival in Amsterdam. Austrian Airlines’ 767 replacement depends on politics.
The renewal of Austrian’s long-haul fleet had been on the agenda for some years. Austrian has three Boeing 767-300s with an average age of 23 years and six 777-300s of almost 22 years. Most were purchased by Lauda Air, which was later acquired by Austrian. Three 767s were phased out in 2021. Replacing them with either the Boeing 787 or Airbus A350 has been discussed within parent company Lufthansa Group, but a decision was deferred when the Covid crisis hit Austrian hard.
“We just received our first of four Airbus A320neo’s, so we do take delivery of new aircraft. But first, we have to return to profitability before we can decide on the long-haul fleet”, says Annette Mann. This decision will have everything to do with the landscape for airlines in Europe, she adds.
“We first want to know how the Fit for 55 plan of the European Commission affects our hub strategy in Vienna, where we have a rather small hub for long-haul services. The way Fit for 55 is now, the rules for offsetting carbon emissions and the mandates for sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) will make bypassing European airports more attractive for passengers. For example, flying via Istanbul will become much cheaper.”
Mann adds: “Renewing the long-haul fleet by the end of the decade could be affected by the outcome of the Fit for 55 plan. If Vienna becomes only a very small hub, then investing in new long-haul aircraft might not be a wise decision.”
For the moment, the fleet renewal only includes the 767s. Austrian said on October 5 that it will increase the number of Premium Economy seats on the 777s from 24 to forty as well as fourteen extra Economy seats. The refurbishment of the six 777s will start in the spring of 2023 and should be completed as early as May.
Lufthansa Group CEO Carsten Spohr voiced concerns about the European policies on a number of public occasions. During a media round table in Doha during the IATA Annual General Meeting, Spohr said: “What the European Parliament wants is the end of European hub traffic, even though the whole effect comes into effect at the end of the decade. The estimate is that by then, it would cost €20 more if you fly via Istanbul or Doha to Asia but €200 more if you go via a European hub.”
Active as a journalist since 1987, with a background in newspapers, magazines, and a regional news station, Richard has been covering commercial aviation on a freelance basis since late 2016.
Richard is contributing to AirInsight since December 2018. He also writes for Airliner World, Aviation News, Piloot & Vliegtuig, and Luchtvaartnieuws Magazine. Twitter: @rschuur_aero.