Austrian Airlines has announced a major shake-up of its regional short-haul route network. The company will replace its Embraer E190 regional jets operating on certain European regional routes by entering into a wet-lease arrangement with Swedish carrier Braathens Regional Airlines (BRA) for two ATR72 turboprops.
Starting in the summer of 2024, BRA will operate on selected routes on behalf of Austrian Airlines where demand and yields no longer warrant the use of the 120-seat Embraers. All flights using the wet-leased aircraft will operate out of Austrian’s Vienna (VIE) hub.
As demand for air travel has not fully recovered on certain regional routes after the pandemic, Austrian Airlines is said to be facing “new challenges”. According to the carrier, the slow recovery of business travel demand has resulted in a lower demand level and “necessitating adjusted capacity structures for economically viable operations.”
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The airline reports that regional routes are neither economically nor operationally viable given the makeup of Austrian Airlines’ current fleet. As such, these routes will now be served by BRA.
The wet-lease agreement will see two ATR72-600 aircraft along with pilots being provided by BRA. Meanwhile, Austrian cabin crew will undergo differences training to operate on the leased ATRs. Onboard, passengers will receive the regular Austrian Airlines regional catering offering product, and both business class and economy class seats will be offered.
The ATR72 aircraft, due to their lower capacity of just 72 passengers, are more efficient for the respective routes according to Austrian, while they also emit less Carbon Dioxide and provide “the appropriate seat volume for the markets served”.
“On some regional routes, the demand has not fully returned after the pandemic,” said Austrian Airlines CCO Michael Trestl. “To continue connecting these routes to our Vienna hub in the future, we need adjusted capacity structures. I am pleased to have found a dedicated partner in Braathens Regional Airlines in this challenging segment”.
“We are very excited about the collaboration with Austrian Airlines and hope to further develop it over time. We have extensive experience in providing this type of service at a high-quality level and look forward to offering it also in the Austrian market”, said Ulrika Matsgård, CEO of Braathens Regional Airlines.
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The pair of BRA ATR72s will operate exclusively on some routes, while on others it will be interchanged with the Embraer jets on certain days and times. The routes on which the ATRs will fly include Vienna to Belgrade (BEG), Bologna (BLQ), Graz (GRZ), Klagenfurt (KLU), Košice (KSC), Leipzig (LEJ), Warsaw (WAW) and Zagreb (ZAG).
According to ch-aviation, Austrian (part of the Lufthansa Group) currently operates a fleet of 66 aircraft which includes 40 A320 family aircraft, three Boeing 767-300ERs, six 777-200ERs, and 17 Embraer E190-200LRs. BRA’s current fleet includes four A319s and 13 ATR72-600s.
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