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An Austrian Airlines A319 departing. (Photo: AirlineGeeks | William Derrickson)

Austrian Airlines Trades Planes for Trains on European Route

Austria’s flagship airline announced that it will be replacing one of its flight segments with frequent train service to meet certain environmental requirements in a recent government bailout package it accepted.

Austrian Airlines, in cooperation with Austrian Federal Railways (ÖBB), is offering a tenfold increase in travel opportunities with 31 daily AIRail trains commuting between two domestic cities where before there were only three rail connections per day.

Previously, passengers traveling between Austria’s capital city of Vienna and one of its’ largest cities, Salzburg, could opt to cover the 180 miles between them on a short 45-minute flight that operated twice a day or a 2-hour 45-minute train ride that operated three times a day.

But beginning July 20, Austrian Airlines will not operate flights on the Salzburg-Vienna route any longer. Passengers will be required to shuttle between the two cities on an AIRail train with an Austrian Airlines flight number that can be reserved on the Austrian carrier’s website. The train service will operate every hour between 5 a.m. and 8:30 p.m.

“Vienna Airport can be reached by train from Salzburg in well under three hours and without changing trains. This is why our AIRail offer is a good and more environmentally friendly alternative to flying. We are confident that we will be able to welcome many Austrian Airlines guests on AIRail from Salzburg in the future, who will then transfer to long-haul and Eastern European flights in Vienna”, stated Austrian Airlines CEO Alexis von Hoensbroech.

In accepting a $680 million government aid package, Austrian committed to reducing its domestic emissions by 50% by the year 2050. The recent pandemic driven flight cutbacks forced the need for the government aid and local officials decided to make it the impetus for the emission reduction requirements. But the idea is not a new one and has precedence with two other carriers, KLM and Lufthansa, who both have worked closely to institute similar plane-train substitutions with local rail companies.

Austrian Airlines claims that its customers will enjoy various advantages when they book an AIRail connection. Guaranteed plane-train connections, Business class passengers can access to first-class train accommodations, access to the ÖBB Lounge and the ability to earn miles on Austrian’s Miles & More program are among the amenities promoted to passengers. Passengers also receive a catering voucher which they can use in the ÖBB dining car.

Due to an airport closure for runway repairs in Salzburg last year, Austrian Airlines was forced to implement a train service connection for approximately 30 days and found it to be very well received by its customers.

While the train service is 2 hours and 45 minutes in length, when factoring in airport security, boarding, and other passenger handling requirements, the point to point travel time overall was found to be nearly the same. An additional advantage is the rail service is not always impacted by weather events that can adversely impact Austrian’s flight operations.

Rick Shideler
Rick Shideler
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