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A380 landings at VIA likely

  28.09.2011    

The world’s biggest passenger aircraft may touch down in Austria on a regular basis soon, according to Austrian Times.
Flughafen Wien AG (FW) manager Günther Ofner said on Monday his company – which coordinates the operations of VIA – could expand the airport’s infrastructure to create circumstances allowing the Airbus A380 to touch down there. Ofner pointed out there were no official requests considering landings of A380 jets on FW’s table.
His announcement came shortly after the press disclosed the interest of Emirates to use the giant aircraft on its link between VIA and Dubai International Airport (DXB) in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The quickly growing airline started using A380 planes in regular passenger transportation some months ago. Lufthansa, which holds a main stake in Austrian Airlines (AUA), also owns A380 planes.
Emirates currently operates between VIA and DXB 13 times a week thanks to a preliminary agreement with the Austrian government coalition of Social Democrats (SPÖ) and the conservative People’s Party (ÖVP). Emirates was previously allowed to offer seven connections each week only. The airline wants to continue operating 13 times a week, with a possible expansion of landing rights in the foreseeable future.
SPÖ Infrastructure Minister Doris Bures kept tight-lipped about what could be expected from negotiations scheduled for next month. The minister stressed she was in favour of creating competition at VIA since this would positively affect the Austrian economy. However, Bures was quick to add that all competition must be fair. This statement is considered as a signal of agreement with AUA’s complaints about allegedly low wages and a lack of labour unions at Emirates and in the UAE. The Austrian carrier has opposed ideas of a potential increase of Emirates’ landing rights in Austria.
"The hub Dubai is being expanded regardless of the project’s profitability. It’s just about the location. The owner is also the lawmaker, the regulator, it owns the airline and the airport and is in charge of air traffic monitoring. It also provides the kerosene. Money doesn’t matter," AUA co-chief Peter Malanik said in March, adding that the situation was "similar to the production of T-shirts using child labour."
Niki Lauda hit out at Malanik over the alleged interference of AUA and Lufthansa in the talks between the Austrian infrastructure ministry and Emirates. The businessman, who heads low-cost carrier FlyNiki, said he felt reminded of occurrences in the "deepest Eastern Bloc". Lauda pointed out: "Austria is not a sheltered workshop."
Thousands of aviation enthusiasts turned up at VIA when an A380 jet landed at the aerodrome in June 2010 as part of a continent-wide series of test flights. The plane – which provides seating for 525 people in three-class configurations – also touched down at Linz Airport (LNZ). Another Lufthansa-owned A380 plane landed at VIA in August 2011 to baptise it "Wien" which is German for Vienna.
FW bosses have plans to build a third runway at VIA to cope with soaring passenger figures. They said in August an increase of customers of five per cent from 2010 to 2011 was expected. Around 19.7 million passengers were counted at VIA, Austria’s biggest airport, last year – more than ever before. Hundreds of local residents joined organisations established to fight the construction of another runway at VIA. They said noise pollution in the area would worsen if more flights departed and arrived at the airport. Talks between FW chiefs and protesters will continue – and a juridical showdown may be possible.
Ofner explained yesterday FW could imagine creating docking stations and parking space for A380 planes "if there is serious interest". The firm reportedly considers adapting the facilities of Skylink, VIA’s fourth terminal which is currently being built, for A380 planes. The construction of Skylink has come to a halt several times over the years to allow the Federal Audit Office (RH) and prosecutors to investigate progress. The institutions had to be let onto the grounds after it emerged that the project will be significantly more expensive than initially promised.
Ofner and co-FW boss Julian Jäger claimed last week costs of the building of Skylink would not surpass 800 million Euros – twice the amount announced in 2002 when Ofner and Jäger were not in charge. However, reports in business newspapers have it that overall costs would nevertheless range around one billion Euros as some construction activities were allegedly outsourced from the general project. Skylink will be officially opened and put into operation next year, according to Ofner and Jäger.
In related news, Lufthansa and several firms belonging to the powerful enterprise are set to increase their ticket prices. Lufthansa officials explained they expected a growth rate of four per cent for the upcoming winter schedule. They added that the initial intention was to offer 12 per cent more tickets in the coming months. This evaluation was halved before it was slashed to four per cent. AUA, which had 10.9 million passengers in 2010, will also be affected by an upcoming reduction of flights and higher prices, managers of the German company made clear.



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