Austrian Airlines repatriation flight
Austrian Airlines is part of the Lufthansa Group which consists of Lufthansa and Swiss. Austrian Airlines was one of the first wave of airlines to suspend all its commercial service in Europe and ground its aircraft though it had said it would have a few aircrafts on standby for emergency and cargo services.
Suspension of its flight
Austrian Airlines on the 16th of March had announced suspension of all commercial flights which would be effective from the 18th of March 2020. The last commercial flight operated by Austrian Airlines was flight OS66 flying from Chicago to Vienna. The aircraft used was a B767-300ER registered as OE-LAX.
It had also said that along with its Foreign Ministry it would be operating a series of repatriation flights to get fellow Austrian and European citizens back as well as cargo flights using its passenger aircraft. Initially it said the suspension was until 28th March but due to various travel ban and restrictions resulting in very low demand for travel Austrian Airlines pushed its suspension until the 19th of April.
Series of repatriation flights
Initially Austrian Airlines CEO Alexis von Hoensbroech in a statement had said “As Austria’s national carrier, we are aware of our responsibility and will cooperate with the government and try to bring home as many Austrians as possible”.
They sent their B777-200ER aircraft to Marrakesh, Morocco which is the 4th largest city in its country. The aircraft is registered as OE-LPE and was sent to bring back Austrian citizens stranded in the country.
On the 18th March more repatriation flights were operated to Gran Canaria, Tenerife in Spain and Hurghada in Egypt. It had also sent a repatriation flight to Washington D.C which had bought back 300 passengers.
Flights were operated to Punta Cana, Havana using a B767-300ER registered as OE-LAX and carried around 200 people home, to Mexico City, Cancun using a B777-200ER registered as OE-LPB and one to Colombo, Delhi using a B767-300ER registered as OE-LAE which all have bought back Austrian and European citizens. At the time of publishing two flights are on schedule to reach Shanghai using a B767-300ER registered as OE-LAX and one to Penang using a B777-200ER registered as OE-LPC.
Austrian Airlines indeed like its group partner Lufthansa has been using passenger jets for cargo services.
It had sent two of its B777-200ER registered as OE-LPC and OE-LPD TO Xiamen, China to pick up medical supplies for Austria and Italy. It had carried close to 130 t of medical supplies.
The same aircraft OE-LPD was sent again to Xiamen to pick up medical supplies and would head to Rome after arriving in Vienna
Even though there is a global shutdown of Aviation resulting grounding of flights and suspension of routes which has lead to huge job cuts, the CEO of Austrian Airlines is confident Austrian Airlines will emerge stronger than before once the crisis which is estimated to cause losses in billions is over.
In a statement he said ““The aviation sector is in an unprecedented crisis in its history. The coronavirus and its consequences will severely test us”. He also confidently said “Not all the airlines will survive this crisis. Austrian Airlines is better positioned than many other carriers. For this reason, we will emerge strengthened from this crisis. Who else if not us.”
This optimism and confidence would be reassuring for everybody related to the airline but the real test is how will the airline cope up with the massive financial burden of grounding and suspension of its fleet and routes.