I’ll be honest, in all the times I’ve been to Vienna, the airport always seemed too big for the amount of travel undertaken. There seemed always to be something of the quiet backwater about it. It’s positively calm and unrushed compared to Heathrow or Frankfurt.
Those days appear to be ending. Airlines, for reasons that have baffled me seem to have suddenly realised that Vienna – which historically has been in the middle of East-West conflict for hundreds of years because of its strategic position, is in fact more or less the centre of Europe.
Austrian has plied its trade from there as you’d expect, relatively minor in international terms. It has few long haul routes. If you want to go anywhere from Vienna, you do what everyone does, get on a flight to Dubai with Emirates, or you fly in to Munich over the Alps or more likely Frankfurt to Lufthansa’s main global hub, from where you can go almost anywhere. The number of daily flights to Frankfurt are so great there are permanent Austrian Airlines gates there.
Now, out of the blue the fall of AirBerlin and the advent of Brexit, has hastened its rise, suddenly its an airport that everyone is talking about. (I might add that Vienna is an extraordinary city and worth days of anyone’s time).
January 9th and Wizz Air, another low-cost carrier announced it was moving in to Vienna and setting up a base. The start will be a modest one with just staff, and a rotating A320 operating 3 routes. later in May, the first A320 will arrive to open up five more routes, and in late 2018 to early 2019 that will be joined by two new A321neo’s, with more to come in 2020. Initially, by the end of 2018 the airline will operate 13 new routes.
It’s not the only one. easyJet is intending to base 20 or more aircraft there as its post-Brexit base turns into its potential European Head Quarters; it’s already acquired an Austrian AOC and registered its first 33 aircraft there, and plans on maximizing its opportunities.
Eurowings is already on site, and they too are planning expansion with multiple routes. The collapse of AirBerlin and the sale of Niki to IAG’s Vueling is another. Vueling is already flying to Vienna, but the Niki subsidiary will greatly strengthen its brand, and the whole Niki route network is biased to Vueling’s home country of Spain – Niki is one of the biggest airlines that fly into holiday airports in the Balearic and Canary Islands.
Vienna has suddenly moved from being almost an airline backwater to a major low-cost hub in the making, capable of absorbing passengers from Czechia (yes that’s its official name soon), Slovakia, Hungary, Slovenia, and Bavaria, as the endless demand for LCC seats keeps growing.