Austrian Airlines – never quite hitting the sweet spot

Vienna, Austria’s stunning imperial capital is renowned for its sweet deserts and amazing cakes. It’s airline however somehow seems to miss the sweet spot that will drive it into profit.

It’s one of those chicken and egg scenarios. They can’t have new aircraft and expand to new routes that will make them more profitable without modern efficient aircraft. Lufthansa Group won’t provide new aircraft until the airline is profitable using its now ageing 6-6 fleet of 763ER’s and 772’s.

Austrian has just announce a massive cull of routes – not least of which is a recent addition much sought after by the airline to Hong Kong.

Other routes such as Miami will be cut to seasonal only or dropped. Flights to Iran’s interior cities have been culled – even though it’s the only European airline flying to anywhere outside of Tehran. Even the much used domestic Vienna-Linz route is going because there’s too much competition and costs outweigh profits.

The solution for now is to use the 12 wide bodies in a way that strengthens existing routes – Chicago, Newark, JFK, and reinforces others like Beijing and Shanghai.

Part of the problem is that many Austrians find themselves so short of options from Vienna – which is a relatively quiet backwater in strategic terms. A quick flight, train or drive over the border to Munich or further to Frankfurt places them at global hubs – even Zurich isn’t more than an hour away by air.

All these options also keep them inside the Lufthansa family group – so the group has no real incentive to rush the process of fleet renewal.

One way or another Austrian needs to turn a genuine profit before Lufthansa Group will agree it gets new aircraft. Perhaps this time with another major re-alignment of routes and strategy – one designed to capture in-transit business flyers from Eastern Europe – Austrian won’t just be known for its amazing Sachertorte pastries and cakes, but as a viable alternative for business and leisure travel passengers choose to fly with.