“No Future” For Austrian Airlines 767s & 777s

Filed Under: Austrian

It looks like Austrian Airlines is headed to one of two extremes — ending long haul routes, or being the first Lufthansa Group airline to get Boeing 787s.

“No future” for Austrian’s long haul fleet

Austrian Airlines is part of the Lufthansa Group, so a lot of decisions about the future of the member airlines are made centrally. This past week Lufthansa Group CEO Carsten Spohr indicated that Austrian Airlines’ long haul aircraft “simply no longer have a future.”

Austrian Airlines’ long haul fleet currently consists of a dozen aircraft, including:

This is the most outdated long haul fleet of any Lufthansa Group airline. At the same time, with fuel prices currently low, the operating costs of many long haul aircraft aren’t as bad as they used to be.

Lufthansa Group sees no future for Austrian’s long haul fleet

What does this mean for Austrian’s long haul fleet?

How should we interpret Spohr’s comments about the lack of a future for Austrian’s long haul fleet? The way I view it, there are a couple of potential conclusions, which are at opposite ends of the spectrum:

No more long haul flights for Austrian

If Austrian no longer has long haul aircraft, I suppose that one conclusion is that Austrian may just become a feeder airline for the Lufthansa Group. There are a few things working for and against this:

  • Of the full service Lufthansa Group airlines, Austrian’s long haul operations have historically been the least profitable
  • Lufthansa and SWISS have huge global networks, so there could be merit to having most Austrian traffic funneled through Frankfurt, Munich, and Zurich
  • At the same time, Austrian’s government insists on the national airline maintaining long haul flights, having anticipated that the Lufthansa Group may try this

Could Austrian’s entire long haul fleet be retired?

Austrian will be the first to get 787s

In March 2019 it was announced that the Lufthansa Group would order 20 Boeing 787-9s, to be delivered starting in 2022. It wasn’t made clear which Lufthansa Group airline these planes would go to, and there were pictures presented of 787s in the liveries of Austrian, Lufthansa, and Swiss.

Boeing 787-9 in three Lufthansa Group liveries

If Austrian’s entire long haul fleet were to be retired, this sure suggests to me that Austrian would get the first Boeing 787-9s that are coming to the Lufthansa Group. This kind of makes sense:

Lufthansa has Boeing 777-9s on order

Bottom line

Lufthansa Group seems to see no future for Austrian Airlines’ dozen long haul aircraft, which are an average of over 20 years old. That can only lead to one of two conclusions — either Austrian will stop flying long haul, or Austrian will be the first Lufthansa Group airline to receive 787s.

The latter sounds like the more likely outcome here in the long-term, since the Austrian government is applying pressure for Vienna to maintain long haul flights from the national airline.

In my opinion Austrian Airlines has the best long haul business class soft product out of the three Lufthansa Group long haul full service airlines. So if Austrian also got 787s with new business class seats, it would shine even more…

Austrian Airlines’ famous business class coffee service

What are you expecting from the future of Austrian’s long haul fleet?

  1. While it is true that OS’s long haul network is the least profitable among the LH Group’s mainline carriers, Austria’s economy, wealth, and population size will assure that it retains a long haul network operated by its flag carrier, though post-COVID, it will likely be very small compared to what it is now. The 777 and 767 fleet at OS is old. Well maintained, but old. The 787-9 is the logical replacement aircraft for the airline which I can see maintaining JFK/EWR, one other UA hub in the US, maybe two (IAD, ORD) a seasonal service to the US West Coast, and one destination in Asia, maybe two, and that’s probably all it will be.

  2. Brussels isn’t considered a long haul, full service airline? They have a few North America flights and a fair number down to West and Central/East Africa that would seem to qualify and have 12-14 A-330s.

  3. There is already three mega international hubs – MUC, FRA, ZRH in the Greater German Area. In fact, it would be much easier for many especially living in Salzburg and Innsbruck to fly via MUC than VIE.

    Given that the middle or middle to high income group near VIE is not big enough to sustain a big international exposure there, I guess it would only be a symbolic, skeleton exposure even if Austrian Airlines decided to keep its international network

  4. “In my opinion Austrian Airlines has the best long haul business class soft product out of the three Lufthansa Group long haul full service airlines. ”

    I assume you forgot that Brussels Airlines also is part of the Lufthansa Group long haul full service airlines? Which make them four instead of three.

  5. It seems to me that there is already a couple of airport nearly which is competitive enough, like Prague (PRG). Pressburg (BTS) is less than an hour away, while even in the Pan-Germanic cities there are big airports like Munich (MUC), thus the airline seems to have a hard way to expand given the limitation of the market.

  6. @EK There are no flights SZG-MUC, only train service. At least that was true when I called the Salzkammergut region home for 15 years. A quick google search shows nothing for that route either so I assume it’s still true. I either had to take the fly via Frankfurt or Vienna but Frankfurt was preferred as they offer many more nonstop options.

  7. It is kind of crazy that a country (Austria) with a population of 8 million has a national airline with 777s or 767s. The demand just isn’t there to support the flights. If the whole national pride-thing is the issue then maybe Austria shouldn’t have allowed its airline to be bought by a much larger foreign airline. This would be like Virginia having its own airline with 767s and 777s.

  8. @Tom sort of sure that there’s express and inexpensive train connection between the two cities, yet I do agree that if one has to connect anyway, it seems easier to fly to fra from Salzburg directly

  9. @FNT Delta Diamond

    I take it you are american and this is your ignorance showing. You can not compare European countries to American states and pretend like there is no difference. Aside, Austria has 9 Mil. inhabitants, which is more than Switzerland with SWISS. Or Ireland with 5 Mil. and Aer Lingus. And so on, and so on.

    Of course the immediate surrounding area of Vienna is not going to fill A380s on it’s own. Just like the immediate surrounding area of Zürich is not going to fill A380s. Yet they fill 777s, because of the LHG network planning. Route passengers over VIE and you will fill bigger planes. VIE in this regard has a big role in regards to transfer passengers from Central/Eastern/Southeastern Europe, especcially on the long haul. As a result of this, most of the long haul routes, especcially the northamerican routes, were very profitable for OS.

  10. @EK I was responding to your original comment about it being easier to fly out of SZG via MUC instead of Vienna, which is not a possibility given there are no flights operating between SZG and MUC. Buses and trains are the only forms of public transport I can think of between the two cities. Maybe you meant for Salzburg residents to travel (by train or bus) to MUC to fly out? I read it as if you meant a layover which in case would be a misunderstanding on my part. Apologies, while my English is good, I’m not a native speaker.

  11. @ArnoldB, was it really necessary to start of your post with a derogatory statement? This is not the DailyMailUK.

  12. @FNT Delta Diamond – According to that logic, Emirates should have maybe 10th of the fleet it has. You’re forgetting connecting traffic. It’s also important to keep in my mind that area served by VIE goes far beyond Austria, it’s also the main airport for some regions of SK, CZ and HU.

    In my opinion, LH Group can get away with cancelling destinations in Americas and routing those passengers via MUC, but if they give up longhaul to the east, those passengers will almost universally walk away to Asian and ME3 carriers as backtracking via Germany/Zurich doesn’t make a lot sense.

  13. I have flown Austrian (on flights up to 5 hours) numerous times (well over 100). Their short and medium-haul service is excellent in economy — and the food is by the Austrian company DO&CO (same caterer used by Turkish). However, I -hated- taking Austrian across the Atlantic in economy because it truly was for teenage backpackers given the intense discomfort of the seats for people 6 feet or taller. In the last few years, I discovered Austrian’s business class product which was surprisingly wonderful by comparison; I’ve used miles to upgrade to it several times. I’m happy to confirm that Austrian was the first European airline circa 1990 to build out a massive route network across Central/Eastern Europe and Central Asia (now greatly diminished) and this gave it brand awareness and enormous feeder traffic to its intercontinental services. For example, they were the first to serve every single capital city in ex-Yugoslavia and points East including the three Caucasus states not to mention Iraq and Kurdistan (as soon as it was safe to do so). Turkish Airlines followed a similar route expansion later when they took delivery of new aircraft in early 2007.

  14. I’ve flown Austrian from IAD to VIE and VIE to KRK a few times. The airline is pretty nice. Hopefully the long haul flights stick around. Interestingly enough right now, Austrian is not flying their VIE to KRK flights. Most likely due to the pandemic.

  15. Great to see any current 777s gone. 10 abreast is nonsense, more so in today’s world. Thing is people like Ben only flies in front, the misery of 10 abreast behind is obscured.

  16. Austrian will also have in the future a long distance fleet. In contract for the money the got from the government, it says they have to remain a long haul fleet.

  17. @FNT Delta Diamond, pretty myopic, typical American-centric view. Switzerland has a population of 8MM and has a thriving national airline that is part of the same parent company. Austria is a rich country, with big business ties to the rest of the world, and NGOs. The OS long haul network was actually profitable before COVID. It will come back, though smaller.

    Also, to your logic, Israel is the size of NJ, so shouldn’t it too not have a national airline?

  18. I can assure you that the Austrian government is not going to allow the demise of long haul flights to key markets. Both from a perspective of national pride and as not to see Vienna become a backwater aviation market that in turn hurts its image as a business and tourism center.

  19. I agree with shoeguy, I believe there would still be justification for a daily NYC. ORD and IAD maybe five times a week, maybe YYZ. In Asia, TYO and maybe one or two more.
    All of that should be doable with a handful of planes.

  20. Switzerland has more international financial services, most or all of the Olympic committees, and many international organizations. Austria is the 7th most visited country in Europe for tourists. It probably doesn’t need a long-haul fleet with 777s when you consider that Greece is the 8th most visited European country and its national airline, Aegean, does not fly to the United States or Canada despite the huge Greek populations in both countries and the large number of Americans and Canadians who vacation in Greece. You can’t compare Austria’s airline to Israel’s airline or even Emirates. Israel’s airline caters to a tightly knit community and doesn’t do a good job. Emirates by contrast has a completely different business model than Austria’s airline. Let’s be honest. Austria’s airline would probably be better off without Luftansa.

  21. From a economics perspective Austrian airlines needs and will have a long haul future. Vienna is one of Europe’s largest and most important centers of commerce with various international organizations including the UN having headquarters there. On top of this, Vienna is often the stepping point for many western businesses looking to expand into Eastern Europe and the East. I find the ignorance these Americans display in the comments truly remarkable.

  22. Does anyone else think that if Austrian keeps a route to the U.S. West Coast, it will be transferred to SFO from LAX to increase/ensure profitability? I believe that SFO has much greater connecting opportunities for OS and better overall synergy with United/*A (and probably also a greater amount of business traffic from SFO too).

  23. I feel that Austrian Airlines would make more of a profit if they changed some of their schedule times. One example is making evening departures from VIE to JFK or EWR. I always wondered what would of happened if the Austrian Airlines/Air France deal went through. Air France does an amazing job with their schedules, fare structure, fleet and marketing.

  24. @shoeman and @stuart are very much on point. There will be no elimination of all long haul routes departing Vienna. It remains a vital and logical connection point for traffic from eastern and central Europe, while Vienna itself nowadays is an important financial and manufacturing center, on the caliber at least of Milan, Madrid, or Lisbon, all of which support long haul services from local carriers.

    Of course, the tourist fliers bring additional traffic during the summer and winter months, while all types of fliers enjoy the unique Austrian brand of hospitality and service. A coffee house in the sky no less.

  25. Having a 787-only long haul fleet would be perfect for Austrian. It’s a great replacement both for their inefficient 767s and overly large 777s…basically in between the two size-wise, much newer, and much cheaper to operate. I’m definitely leaning towards the ‘OS replaces its entire long-haul fleet with 787s’ options (especially since the Austrian government literally won’t allow them to retire the 767s and 777s with no replacement…

  26. Aw shucks, I was looking forward to directs flights Boston-Vienna. OA was on the verge on introducing the connection when the pandemic hit.

  27. Hope the LH group loses OS. The Germans treat them like dirt. Get rid of OS and create a new airline in Austria. Same in Belgium for Brussels Airlines. Even SR has cabins that are no longer competitive in biz or first. As for LH biz class it was not competitive even before it was installed. LH 747 800’s have a great F cabin. And the caviar is till good. Should fly these planes from FRA to JFK, LAX, HND, SIN and other routes that have enough F revenue. Keep the freeloaders out!!! SR has to upgrade its F class or get rid of it. PATHETIC!!!

  28. Spohr is not a supporter of good customer service. So why not get rid of the best soft product in the DLH group so the other two (LH & SR and maybe SN) can drop their service to a lower common denominator?

  29. @FNT Delta Diamond: Funny that you mention exactly those parts, that actually are filling the Austrian longhaul planes. First and foremost ist Vienna one of only thre UN cities in the world with the HQ of IAEA (Nuclear), the INCB (Narcotics) and the UNDCP (Drugs and Crime). Furthermore Vienna is the HQ of the OSCE. Given Austria’s past and former role between East and West and always good relations with the Arabic and Levante areas it offers good connections in those regions. In addition, as mentioned before there is a lot of ethnic travel from CEE and SEE to the US and in addition from Israel. China and Japan are very important Incoming markets for Austria too. I agree with you that the possible portfolio is very limited.

    And I totaly disagree with you the Austrian would be better of without LH, actually LH is a perfect fit and propably the only fit in Europe the economies of Germany, Switzerland and Austria are very tight and are the most important trading partners. Nevertheless without longhaul, you can shut down Austrian and that was acknowledged by Spohr several times. Furthermore, in order to get financial state-aid LH had to agree the VIE stays an Intercontinental hub with longrange flights operated by Austrian.

  30. I wonder if Austrian would get Lufthansa’s new business class but with different soft touches. Lufthansa were trying to standardise their A320 fleet perhaps they may try the same with their long haul fleet

  31. I don’t understand why people are saying “ignorant Americans” just because I believe one commenter questioned why Austria should have a global airline. You guys are the ones who sound ignorant by lumping all 325 million Americans together based on the comments of one person!

    Also, even here in the US, people talk about the need for hubs all the time. Someone might question why CLT is a hub for a city that’s much smaller than the nearby Atlanta metro area. Or why there are no big hubs in Tennessee, a state that is growing very fast. It’s ok to ask questions, form opinions, maybe even be wrong, all in the course of normal discussion. Immediately over-reacting and calling someone a racist or ignorant or what have you just seems overly sensitive and unnecessary.

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