An Austrian Airlines Boeing 777 departed Vienna this morning on what will be the airline’s longest ever direct flight in over 60-years of operation. At more than 16,000 km, Austrian Airlines flight OS1 will fly direct to Sydney, Australia in just under 18-hours to repatriate Austrian citizens who have been stranded in the country after regular commercial flights were suspended or entry restrictions stopped them travelling through hubs like Hong Kong and Singapore.
A spokesperson for Austrian said a special permit had to be obtained to operate the flight which will return to Vienna via Penang on the return leg in order to refuel, pick up vital medical supplies and change over crew. Around 290 passengers will be on board plus 16 crew members.
OS1 is set to arrive in Sydney at 12:40 pm on Monday and is expected to depart for Vienna less than 12-hours later.
Austrian Airlines has suspended all regular flight operations because of a massive slump in passenger demand prompted by the Covid-19 pandemic but is continuing to operate special rescue flights around the world. So far, Austrian has flown evacuation flights to Mexico City, Masa Alam, Denpasar and Washington DC, as well as to normally popular holiday destinations like Tenerife and Gran Canaria.
The airline has also been involved in flying medical cargo from China, loading up normal passenger planes to the brim with essential supplies like surgical mask, gloves and gowns.
This isn’t the first time that Austrian has flown to Sydney but in the past the flight number OS1 was used on its flagship route to the Australian city via a stopover in Kulala Lumpur. Austrian dropped that route back in 2006.
After Singapore closed its borders to all foreigners including transit passengers at Changi airport, Qantas was forced to reroute its Airbus A380 service from Sydney to London via Darwin in the Northern Territory. It’s the first time the Qantas A380 has ever visited Darwin for commercial operations so that the plane could be refuelled before continuing on the 17-hour to Heathrow Airport.
Qantas will suspend all international operations at the end of March and doesn’t intend to restart services until June at the earliest. Austrian Airlines has also extended its regular flight suspension until at least April 19.
All of the airline’s 7,000 employees have been placed on ‘short time’ working in which working hours are reduced to a minimum of 10 per cent but the Austrian government agrees to pay up to 90 per cent of employee wages.
The initial short-time working agreement began on March 20 for a period of one month but can initially be extended for a further two months. The maximum length of time Austrian can utilise short-time working is for six months.
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.