Coronavirus: Austrian Airlines to retire Airbus A319 fleet

Markus Schmal

Austrian Airlines will sell 20 of its 80 aircraft by 2022, reducing its fleet by 25%, to alleviate the weight of the air transport crisis linked to the coronavirus pandemic.

The carrier had already announced earlier in April 2020, that 18 Dash-8 Q400s would be retired. In addition, it now plans on letting go of its whole fleet of seven Airbus A319s as well as three of its six Boeing 767-300ERs “which are among the oldest aircraft in the fleet with an average age of 28 years”. The reduction of capacity is planned to be about 20%.

Out of the 60 aircraft that the airline will maintain, nine are long-haul. “We want to retain our long-haul hub, even if we have no other choice for the time being but to adapt to the somewhat smaller market,” explained Austrian Airlines CEO Alexis von Hoensbroech in a press release. In addition, “being fit for the future also means that we must be in a position to finance our aircraft, charges, wages and investments, and of course also to repay any charges and loans from Corona grounding,” said von Hoensbroech.

Austria’s flag carrier predicts a 25-50 percent drop in demand. It does not expect to see demand return to normalcy before 2023. “The entire airline industry is pessimistic,” commented Austrian Airlines Executive Board member Andreas Otto.

While Austrian Airlines said as many jobs as possible should be conserved, its parent company Lufthansa (LHAB) (LHA) had presented a restructuring plan aimed at cutting 700 to 800 jobs by 2021. The plan was unveiled before the crisis started. For now, the 7000 employees of the national company continue to work part-time.

Austrian Airlines called for help from the state. However, the Austrian government said that any aid would need to be partly conditioned by environmental compensation, including a reduction in short-haul and an increase in the use of biofuels.

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