Austrian Airlines, part of the Lufthansa Group, has announced that effective Thursday (last arrival in Vienna) the carrier will halt all operations and ground all aircraft until further notice.
Austrian has always been somewhat of a problem child for the LH Group as far as profitability is concerned but in terms of the product itself the airline actually has the best Business Class in between all three carriers Austrian, Lufthansa and Swiss.
Austrian news Die Press (access here) just reported that starting Thursday all flights will be grounded.
The article states that Austrian has already reduced their flight program by 50% in the last week and since the U.S. has announced a further restriction on entries from the Schengen Area the carrier has also furloughed 6800 employees.
Austrian has announced the measure on their website.
Austrian Airlines decided to temporarily suspend all regular flight operations starting Wednesday night, March 18, 2020. This move is in response to entry bans being imposed across the globe and a rapid decline in demand for air travel.
The last flight for the time being departing from Chicago with the flight number OS 066 will land in Vienna on March 19, 2020 in the morning hours. Up until then flight operations will be scaled back in a controlled and structured manner in order to bring all passengers, crews and aircraft home if possible.
Initially, Austrian Airlines will cancel all flights up until March 28, 2020. Passengers who have booked a flight during the time will be rebooked on other airlines if possible.
Stranded Austrians can contact the Federal Ministry of European and International Affairs
Austrian Airlines is in contact with the Austrian Federal Ministry of European and International Affairs to clarify issues relating to the operation of additional evacuation flights to bring back Austrians who are abroad.
For this reason, Austrian Airlines asks all Austrians who are stranded in other countries and who want to return home to get in touch with the hotline of the Federal Ministry of European and International Affairs at +43 1 90115 4411.
An airline shutting down operations entirely is pretty drastic and previously unheard of unless it’s the end of the line for a carrier financially. These are extraordinary times however and I’m sure Austrian won’t be the only carrier to temporarily shut shop. Why keep an operation running for a handful of flights?
The more people can stay home the better it is. In how far the employees of all these airlines are affected by salary cuts, unpaid leave or eligible payments through government assistance will depend on local laws and the social security system.
That being said the airlines won’t be the only ones who are sending their staff home. With curfews in place in Spain and Austria this is going across the bench. I wonder when financial institutions start reacting and provide relief efforts for their customers such as interest free billing period on credit cards etc. Apparently some banks in the U.S. such as Amex have already made such offers to customers holding Business credit cards.