Austrian targets 100% leisure recovery this summer

Austrian Airlines expects to operate 100% of its pre-COVID leisure capacity this summer.

CEO Alexis von Hoensbroech (pictured) outlined the airline’s ambitious plans to focus on restoring leisure capacity at Routes Reconnected 2021.

Despite the planned restoration of its leisure schedule, overall capacity will be well down on 2019 levels, indicating a change in strategic direction, von Hoensbroech noted.

“We all expect that leisure travel will recover faster than business travel,” he said April 27. “Austrian fortunately always had a certain focus on leisure travel and we are expanding that focus.

“So our current thinking of the summer is that our overall network will reach maybe 50% of pre-COVID level by July or August. Our leisure network will reach 100% of pre-COVID levels.”

While the main hub-and-spoke business to Europe, North America and Asian destinations will remain in place, von Hoensbroech said Austrian will also be targeting additional long-haul leisure opportunities.

“We will add some long-haul capacity to leisure destinations,” he said. “We are opening Cancun in November.

“We are adding frequencies to Mauritius, to the Maldives and to South Africa. So leisure will play a larger role in the future than in the past.”

Von Hoensbroech added that Austrian would continue to invest in this market that support this “strong expectation” and it wanted to “capture a larger share” of the market.

This investment will focus on sales, digital enabling and partnerships with the travel and tourism industry.

“We already have a strong footprint and we want to increase that by changing our sales approach and how we work with tour operators,” von Hoensbroech said.

“In the past we have supplied manual processes and we're now changing them to digital processes that will allow us to sell in a much easier way. We know that ease of sales is one of the strong drivers.”

In addition, von Hoensbroech outlined how the carrier’s evolving approach, along with the changing market dynamics, is impacting on its approach to fleet planning.

“Over the last decades we have seen that flying regional aircraft is basically a business that is dying out, at least within Europe,” he said.

“This is a trend that you can't work against because the ticket prices came down so much that the unit cost of the small aircraft are just too big.

“We had 18 De Havilland Canada Dash 8-400s, and now we have 17 Embraer E195-E2 that will cover the smaller markets.

“That’s a big jump from 74 to 120 seats, and then the next aircraft is the Airbus 320. It's a big step, but I think given how markets have developed over the last years and decades this is the right composition.

“It's so much easier nowadays to simulate traffic than it was, maybe 20 or 30 years ago.”

Photo credit: Austrian Airlines / Michèle Pauty

Wesley Charnock

Wesley Charnock is Content Marketing Director for Aviation Week Network.