Austrian Airlines is extending its North American product in the 2013 summer schedule with five flights a week from Vienna to Chicago. The service will be operated using a Boeing 767 with a two-class configuration for approximately 200 Economy Class and 30 Business Class passengers.
“We can already see a huge demand on this new route in our bookings sheets. With a load factor of about 90 percent, we are expecting a surplus of 100,000 passengers per year,” says Karsten Benz, Chief Commercial Officer of Austrian Airlines. Austrian has roughly about 1.1 million passengers on its long-haul fleet. That would amount to a growth of around 9 percent.
“Our partnership will provide United’s customers an additional European gateway to destinations throughout Central and Eastern Europe, while also offering Austrian Airlines’ customers a new U.S. corridor to cities throughout North America,” said Hershel Kamen, United’s Senior Vice President of Alliances, Regulatory and Policy.
From Chicago, Austrian Airlines will offer several transfer connections to destinations across North America together with United Airlines, a key partner serving over 370 destinations worldwide with 5,500 daily departures.
Chicago: The world’s second largest airport and a United hub
Austrian Airlines will be adding 18 codeshare connections via Chicago with United Airlines to cities across the USA, including service to and from Los Angeles, San Francisco, Houston, Las Vegas, Denver and Seattle. Austrian itself offers up to 26 intercontinental nonstop flights a week to North America this summer, flying daily to New York JFK, Washington Dulles and Toronto.
As of July 2011, Austrian Airlines has participated in a transatlantic Joint Venture with Lufthansa, United Airlines and Air Canada as well as Lufthansa Group carriers Brussels Airlines and Swiss. This strategic partnership allows the carriers to cooperate extensively on all intercontinental flights, including the new Chicago-Vienna service, through joint corporate sales agreements, similar fare products and coordinated schedules optimized to increase travel options for consumers.
The transatlantic joint venture serves over 315 destinations in North and Central America as well as more than 240 cities in Europe, the Middle East, Africa and India. Participation in the transatlantic Joint Venture has provided Austrian customers with significant benefits and resulted in new service opportunities that would not have been possible without the Joint Venture. The new Chicago-Vienna route is the latest example of this.
Vienna as a gateway to the east: 70 percent of US Americans want to fly east
Chicago is not just of interest to local passengers as a destination, however, but particularly for transfer traffic, that is for passengers transferring to another flight at the Vienna hub. The Austrian Airlines network compliments existing transatlantic Joint Venture service into and out of Central and Eastern Europe, including destinations such as Tel Aviv (Israel), Pristina (Kosovo) and Podgorica (Montenegro). For Chicago passengers, we see an increase in demand to destinations such as Sarajevo (Bosnia-Hercegovina), Skopje (Macedonia) and Tirana (Albania). Austrian expects a share of 30 percent local and 70 percent transfer traffic on the incoming Chicago flights.
Austrian plans to further expand its Intercontinental flights in 2014
“I am very optimistic about the long-haul business. Austrian has not fully made use of the market potential from Vienna and Austria in recent years. In 2014, we will continue to grow over the fleet expansion,” said Karsten Benz. In the beginning of May, the Supervisory Board of Lufthansa gave the green light for an additional Boeing 777-200ER. According to Benz a good sign that Austrian is making good progress in its restructuring program.
The new aircraft will be transferred to Austrian Airlines Group in the spring of next year. Before being put into operation, it will be subjected to a maintenance check in Vienna and equipped with the all-new long-haul cabin, including its modern Economy Class seats, state-of-the-art in-flight entertainment system and new Business Class seats which can be converted into lie-flat beds. The new Boeing 777 is scheduled to take off for its first flight in the summer of 2014. Further growth in intercontinental business will then be dependent upon development and results.
New long haul cabin warmly received by passengers
After finishing the conversion of its entire Boeing 777 fleet and two aircraft from its Boeing 767 fleet, Austrian surveyed its passengers to gain initial feedback, and found that 88 percent of Austrian Airlines Business Class passengers who had used the new long-haul cabin were “very satisfied” with the new product, specifically mentioning the comfort, entertainment and service offered in-flight.