The German owner of Austrian Airlines (AUA) plans to relocate several departments of the Vienna-based carrier to Frankfurt, according to Austrian Times.
German business weekly Wirtschaftswoche claimed at the weekend that Lufthansa considered managing AUA’s sales, controlling, personnel administration and other business branches itself. The Frankfurt-based airline acquired a majority interest in AUA in 2009. The deal was widely seen as AUA’s only option to avoid bankruptcy as other interested airlines pulled out from takeover talks earlier on.
The Wirtschaftswoche reported that Lufthansa chief Christoph Franz hoped to lower costs of the aviation group by 1.5 billion Euros a year if important AUA operations were handled by Lufthansa's headquarter offices. A spokesman for Europe’s leading aviation firm dismissed the report today (Mon). He said that Lufthansa had no such plans.
Speculations that AUA could lose competencies comes days after Jaan Albrecht, the new head of the Austrian carrier, presented plans for another savings package. Albrecht claimed that AUA had to react to developments in the global aviation industry. He stressed that AUA had to pay a rising percentage share of its earnings on taxes and charges, Albrecht added that the price for kerosene was climbing too.
Around 1,000 AUA employees gathered at the airline’s office at Vienna International Airport (VIA, VIE) on Friday to discuss how to react to Albrecht’s announcements. The ex-Star Alliance chief wants to scrap regulations allowing AUA staff automatic pay rises of around five per cent every other year. The AUA board reportedly also plans to ask pilots to work longer at unchanged salaries.
Works council leaders said at the weekend that employees "have nothing more to give". Unionists stressed that AUA staff were affected by several cutbacks which were carried out by the executive board since 2009. Albrecht angered AUA ground personnel, cabin crew and pilots by saying he wanted to lower the sums staff received as compensation when they were asked to leave the company due to the ongoing regrouping process.
Albrecht announced at the weekend that AUA was at risk of going bust without another package of austerity measures. The businessman explained he planned to lower the airline’s costs by 140 million Euros this year. Further spending reductions and efficiency-raising steps are expected for 2013 and the following years.
Flights were not delayed on Friday because of the gathering of hundreds of AUA employees at VIA. Unionists branded Albrecht’s plans as "disgraceful" but stressed they agreed with the company chief concerning issues affecting Flughafen Wien AG (FW). Albrecht appealed to the firm – which manages VIA – to charge AUA less as of now due to an expected worsening of the economic climate.
FW co-chief Julian Jäger said he was ready to discuss discounts but also made clear that he would ensure that all of the airlines which operated at VIA would benefit. Around 80 carriers offer connections at VIA but one in two flights are managed by AUA. The airline, which has 5,800 employees, counted 10.5 million passengers between January and November 2011 – 2.9 per cent more than in the same time span in 2010.
Jäger said last week he expected the number of passengers at VIA to stagnate or increase by just one per cent in 2012 compared to 2011 when Austria’s biggest airport had 21.11 million individual customers. This figure meant an improvement of 7.2 per cent compared to 2010. Especially the number of people on flights to aerodromes in Eastern Europe (EE) rose in 2011 (plus 14.9 per cent).