Austrian Airlines seems to be preparing for a harder landing than initially anticipated as the airlines announced the grounding of their fleet would be extended until at least April 19th, 2020.
At the same time there were bad news for the catering staff also known as “Flying Chefs” that serve Business Class guests on Austrian Airlines (employed by Do&Co): 80% of them were laid off yesterday.
Austrian Airlines, part of the Lufthansa Group, has been in a difficult financial position even before the current COVID19 situation but now the mandatory cancellations and halting of all regular operations seem to cost the airline dearly.
Based on Austrian Airlines website they just extended the cancellations until late April.
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.
Austrian Airlines will cancel all flights up until April 19, 2020. Passengers who have booked a flight during the time will be rebooked on other airlines if possible.
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.
Austrian is currently handling a couple of repatriation flights for Austrian and European citizens.
For example next week they will pick up passengers in Australia and South America:
- OS1028 on March 31: Sydney – Penang – Vienna
- OS1030 on March 31: Santiago de Chile – Buenos Aires – Vienna
Those repatriation flights are operated as charters from the Austrian government and eligible passengers have to register at the Austrian Foreign Ministry website first and then they are able request a reservation on the respective Austrian Airlines page.
The longhaul flights will cost between 600-1000 EUR per person and passengers have to enter their bank account information when making a reservation.
Nevertheless these flights are far and in between. After they end the fleet will be on the ground and Austrian has already sent all of their 7000 employees into the short employment cycle in coordination with the Austrian Employment Service (AMS).
It’s uncertain if the date of April 19th is a realistic point on the calendar to keep an eye on. Austrian seems to anticipate further difficulties. We received confidential information that 80% of the popular Flying Chef employees of Do&Co, the Austrian premium caterer were let go from their position yesterday afternoon. One has to wonder why they would terminate the entire employment when the plan is to go back up in the air in 3 weeks!?
It didn’t take long for the disastrous consequences of COVID19 to hit financially weak airlines and unfortunately Austrian, despite belonging to the Lufthansa Group being very vulnerable in their position. Considering Lufthansa themselves will fight for their survival I can’t see them propping up Austrian Airlines beyond the basics necessary for a viable operation.
This crisis in the tourism sector will see several airlines fold and the race to stay alive in the industry will truly be a survival of the fittest. Most carriers will rely on the local governments to stay alive and keep at least the majority of their employees in the time ahead.