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Austrian Airlines Resumes Long-Haul Flying
Austrian Airlines has resumed part of its long-haul flying program with its first transatlantic flight in more than 100 days departing its Vienna hub yesterday. The first of the airline’s scheduled long-haul flights departed Vienna at about 10:45 a.m. on July 1 bound for Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey.
Austrian reported almost one-third of the Boeing 767-300 was occupied on flight OS89 with a load of 64 passengers. However, the return flight is fully booked.
The second of Austrian’s long-haul flights slated to begin July 1 was OS65 to Chicago’s O’ Hare International Airport. The last of the three was OS93, a Boeing 777-200 to Dulles International Airport outside Washington D.C.
The airline is also due to restart flights to Bangkok later this month, which are planned to be operated by 767s.
The last of Austrian’s scheduled long-haul flights — before the sudden drop in demand led the airline to drop to a skeleton schedule — landed in Vienna on March 19 from Chicago. Since then, the airline has operated several repatriation flights from South America, Africa, Oceania and other parts of the world to return Austrians stranded abroad home. On top of this, cargo-only flights to China and Malaysia for medical supplies have also operated.
The Star Alliance airline has been operating a limited schedule of short-haul flights within Europe since June 15.
Travel Restrictions Serve As Hurdles
The restart of these flights may have come at a poor time for Austrian as the European Union has maintained travel restrictions on U.S. citizens entering member states due to high numbers of coronavirus cases in the country. Similarly, President Donald Trump in March suspended the entry of those who have been in Schengen zone states in the 14 days prior to their entry, including Austria, as the Schengen area was, in essence, allowing freedom of movement, including to and from nations considered virus hotspots at the time.
This is likely to reduce uptake in transatlantic European flights as those making non-essential business or leisure travel are part of the restriction. As a result, it may be a while until many travelers begin traveling on these routes again, likely until a reciprocal agreement can be reached between the U.S. and E.U. once coronavirus cases begin to fall on both sides of the Atlantic.
While some other European airlines have issued their prospects for a return to long-haul travel to the United States, others are holding off while travel restrictions remain in place. These include TUI U.K., which confirmed it will not be flying to the country until at least December.
The Austrian Airlines Chief Commercial Officer Andreas Otto, said in an airline press release, “Long-haul routes comprise the supreme discipline in Austrian aviation. After such a long interruption, we are of course especially pleased to be able to offer intercontinental flights again and thereby get our hub at Vienna Airport up and running again.”
In the Austrian press release, Julian Jäger, a member of the executive board of Flughafen Wien AG, the governing body of Vienna’s airport, said “The resumption of long-haul flights by Austrian Airlines is an important impulse for the entire tourism industry. Even though it will take some time to reach pre-crisis levels, Vienna as a location for aviation is taking further steps to overcome the crisis with the new long-haul connections.”
Austrian Airlines is currently mandating all passengers wear face masks on all flights and when in direct contact with airline employees. Vienna Airport is also imposing the same rule for people in its terminals. Each passenger is given a disinfectant wipe when boarding aircraft and passengers are distanced across the aircraft where possible.
Passengers are still allowed to take hand luggage onto aircraft — a freedom Italy recently ruled against — but encouraged to check baggage where possible. Austrian is also recommending that customers use contactless check-in and bag drops, as well as boarding gates so they do not have to hand over their boarding passes.
The airline’s CEO, Alexis von Hoensbroech, said that he was convinced that the new safety measures “will enable us to achieve an ideal balance between safety and service.”
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