UPDATE: Austrian Airlines extended the suspension of their flights until June 14, 2020.
Austrian suspends operations as of Wednesday
Austrian Airlines has announced that they will terminate all regularly scheduled flight operations until further notice as of Wednesday, March 18, 2020. The last flight for the time being will be OS66 from Chicago to Vienna, which will land on the morning of March 19.
As of now the airline is canceling flights through March 28, 2020, though cancelations are expected to extend beyond that. Passengers on canceled flights will be rebooked on other airlines.
The airline says that this is being done in response to entry bans being imposed across the globe, as well as the rapid decline in demand for air travel.
Even prior to that, flight operations will be scaled back, with the goal of bringing passengers, crew, and aircraft home as much as possible.
Austrian will keep two planes ready to go
Austrian Airlines is grounding a vast majority of their fleet, though will keep one wide body and one narrow body ready to go, in case there’s a need for evacuation and other relief or emergency flights. These would be carried out in cooperation with the government.
“This is not a goodbye”
Austrian Airlines is saying that they are preparing for a relaunch after the crisis, as the company takes a “flexible approach towards restarting the business.”
As Austrian’s CEO describes it, this is “so that we can be ready to go as soon as possible once demand recovers. This is not a ‘goodbye,’ it’s a ‘servus’ and ‘see you later.'”
Austrian Airlines is the first of the Lufthansa Group airlines to shut down completely. Given the structure of the Lufthansa Group, I’d also expect that they’re most likely to be the only carrier in the group to shut down completely.
There is quite a bit of overlap between airlines in the group, so chances are that most passengers can be accommodated on Lufthansa or SWISS to their destinations.
There’s something about the tone of this message that I appreciate. This isn’t just a simple “we’re suspending operations for a couple of weeks” announcement, but rather the tone is more “that’s it from us for now, we’ll be back eventually.”
I feel bad for the employees who will be impacted by these cuts, though unfortunately this was inevitable…