Austrian Airlines has announced a drastic decision to suspend all operations between March 18 and March 28 because of an increasing number of travel bans and a huge slump in passenger demand prompted by the Coronavirus pandemic. The last flight to arrive in Vienna will be OS66 from Chicago and the airline says it is working hard to get passengers, crew and its aircraft back safely.
Initial plans to restart flights from March 29 may be pushed further back dependent on global developments.
Austrian will keep just one long-haul aircraft and one single-aisle aircraft readied over this period should there be a need to evacuate or repatriate stranded Austrian citizens around the world. The airline said it was working closely with the Austrian government and any relief flights would be organised in cooperation with the federal authorities.
“As Austria’s national carrier, we are aware of our responsibility and will cooperate with the government and try to bring home as many Austrians as possible,” explained chief executive Alexis von Hoensbroech on Monday afternoon.
Austrian is part of the German-owned Lufthansa Group which in the coming days plans to cut capacity across its long-haul route network by as much as 90 per cent and by 80 per cent on short-haul routes. The airline group is expected to announce a slew of new route suspensions on Tuesday and is currently still working out its amended schedule.
Lufthansa said it had operated 17 evacuation flights over the weekend to repatriate around 4,000 German citizens, most of whom had been stranded overseas after cruise holidays. More repatriation flights are expected in the following days for German, Belgian, Swiss and Austrian citizens.
“Now it’s no longer about economic issues,” said Lufthansa Group chief executive Carsten Spohr as the sweeping new cuts were announced. His comments followed announcements from airline after airline across Europe on massive capacity reductions.
Finnair, SAS, IAG which owns British Airways and Iberia, and the Air France-KLM group all announced reductions of between 75 and 90 per cent on Monday. easyJet also said it was readying to park the majority of its fleet and Ryanair said it hadn’t ruled out grounding its entire fleet.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.