Lufthansa Group member Austrian Airlines is to restructure its operations and make Vienna Schwechat Airport its central hub. The airline will also grow the continental fleet while studying plans to renew the long-haul fleet, Austrian announced on January 17 during a press conference in Vienna.
Despite positive results (+8.5% more pax last year, 25% growth in last five years) over the last few years following a ‘tough’ restructuring program, the Austrian board finds it necessary to rationalize operations to further improve passenger numbers and earnings and margins. The airline in November 2018 decided on a 10-point program called DriveTo25, which until 2025 at the latest should bring the desired results.
A major decision is to centralize operations at Vienna Airport, in order to give Austrian leverage to better fight the low-cost competition, which in recent years has seen easyjet, Wizz, Ryanair and LaudaMotion arrive at the Austrian capital. Vienna will be the central hub for most European, Intercontinental and domestic network.
However, the decentralized network with operations from Salzburg, Linz and Graz to Düsseldorf, Stuttgart and Frankfurt in Germany will be reorganized. As Austrian finds it more and more difficult to operate flights and base crew at the three semi-hub airports efficiently, flights will be based at what are now their German destinations. So Lufthansa will operate out of Frankfurt and Stuttgart with Lufthansa aircraft, while Eurowings will fly from Düsseldorf.
Crew bases at Graz, Salzburg, Innsbruck, Linz, Altenrhein and Klagenburg will be closed and 200 cockpit and cabin crew offered opportunities in Vienna. Domestic services will continue to operate as before.
Fleet structure to be simplified
The board also wants to simplify the fleet structure, which now counts 83 aircraft and eight versions. Out will go 18 Bombardier Dash-8 Q400s used on domestic and European routes, their job taken over by the 17 Embraer E195s already in the fleet.
The continental fleet will grow from 36 A320-family (A319, A321, A321) aircraft to 46 by 2021. Austrian CEO Alexis von Hoensbroech clarified that with $200m available, his airline will not buy new aircraft but search for available young A320s. They will be used on some routes used by the Embraer until now.
Austrian is still studying options together with parent Lufthansa Group as how to renew the long-haul fleet, which consists of 6 Boeing 767-300ERs that are on average 23 years old plus 6 777-200ERs that are 18 years old. Von Hoensbroech said his airline is not ready to announce plans yet, but confirmed it Austrian will almost certainly move to a single type of all-new aircraft.
The long-haul fleet in recent months has been moved away from Asian to North-American routes to New York and Chicago and has been making some good money there, which Austrian hopes to continue to do so.
Austrian announced it will also reorganize its maintenance activities, with its own fleet getting priority over third-party work.
Finally, reviewing its administrative and operational processes should save some 20-30m Euros. Quite a few of them are still non-digital.