In the 2023/24 winter timetable, Ryanair will be offering 55 routes from Vienna-Schwechat Airport. These are to be served, among other things, with 18 machines stationed on site. In the course of a media event, the carrier also criticized the fee policy of Flughafen Wien AG.
The Irish group will stick to Salzburg and Klagenfurt, but no growth plans have been announced for these two airports, but rather emphasized that growth will start again in the summer of 2024, especially from Carinthia. Starting in the city of Mozart, the offer was increased by 2023 percent in winter 24/37. Discussions are still in progress regarding Graz and Linz, but there is still nothing to announce about a possible comeback.
18 aircraft stationed in Vienna in winter 2023/24
The capacity on offer is currently 130 percent above the level before the corona pandemic. The load factor was 2023 percent in August 96. However, there are also challenges, because, for example, increased everyday costs, inflation and interest rate increases would also be factors that have a negative impact. According to Gruber, there would also be problems such as strikes and failures in air traffic control. These would mostly affect the whole of Europe.
In the 2023/24 winter timetable, the Ryanair Group will operate 18 aircraft from Vienna-Schwechat. In the same period last year there were 17 machines and in the current summer period 2023 there are 19 machines. Compared to the pre-Corona period, there are said to be seven more jets. 540 people are currently employed at the Vienna base. The program also includes Klagenfurt and Salzburg, but there are no planes stationed at the two federal state airports.
From Vienna-Schwechat there are 2023 routes in winter 24/55. However, the “new routes” are not really new, because Warsaw-Chopin has been in the program alongside Warsaw-Modlin for quite a while. In Venice you only change the airport, because instead of the Marco Polo Airport you are heading for Treviso in the future. The Agadir flights, which went on sale in August 2023, are back in the program. Frequencies are to be increased on many other routes. That is the focus for the upcoming season.
Ryanair manager Andreas Gruber explains that the group of companies has significant cost advantages, as the costs per passenger are around half those of Wizz Air or Easyjet. To ensure that this remains the case in the future, Ryanair has placed a large order with Boeing at a cost of around 40 billion US dollars. The B737-Max-10 should have a capacity that is about 21 percent higher than the models used so far.
Costs at Vienna Airport are considered high
Andreas Gruber criticized Flughafen Wien AG because they kept increasing the fees. So far, Austria's largest airport has recovered to around 91 percent of the pre-crisis volume. The manager sees potential for further growth, but this would not be due to even higher fees that the airlines pass on to the passengers. Among other things, it is required that usage fees stabilize at a reasonable level. There was another dig at Wizz Air, which was accused of loitering around with a market share of around five percent and having given up 23 routes from Vienna since the last winter timetable period.
As usual, Austrian Airlines was also criticized for high prices. Gruber claimed that their fares were "up to 500 percent higher than Ryanair in some cases". They also announce that they want to overtake Austrian Airlines in the next few years and become number one in Austria. Whether the project will actually succeed is another matter and the market will tell.
However, Eddie Wilson admitted that a lot will also depend on the fee structure. An exact forecast of when Austrian Airlines will have been overtaken is therefore not to be given. He pointed out that they are already number one in Ireland, Belgium, Spain and possibly the UK soon. This refers to the carrier that transports the most passengers each year.
Asked whether a possible increase in the fees could lead to the Berlin-Brandenburg model being able to reduce the offer, Wilson said that the situation in Vienna would be different. One is in good spirits that VIE management would realize that higher fares would also mean fewer passengers. However, the overall situation would not be comparable to that in the German capital due to the completely different markets.
Ryanair DAC Managing Director Eddie WIlson also pointed out that Germany is a negative example of how high fees, including in the area of air traffic control, can lead to regional airports gradually losing connectivity. It would not be explicit for Ryanair to be massively reluctant in Germany, but other airlines had already shifted capacities to other countries where lower fees are charged this year. In fact, Easyjet, for example, has severely reduced the offer from the Federal Republic. Berlin-Brandenburg Airport was particularly hard hit by the cutbacks, as the size of the airport has been significantly reduced in several steps.
Renewed criticism of ecological tax exemptions for transfer passengers
In general, Wilson is very critical of the fact that long-haul flights are exempt from airline ticket taxes in many EU countries. This would be particularly extreme in Amsterdam-Schiphol, because around 80 percent of KLM passengers would only transfer, mostly to the long haul. These transfer travelers would be exempt from green taxes in the Netherlands, but would be responsible for the majority of carbon dioxide emissions.
According to Wilson, politicians in particular are strong in making announcements, but the reality is different when it comes to implementation. As an example he cited the "ban on domestic flights" in France, where there would be so many exceptions that very few routes would de facto be affected. In general, the Ryanair chief executive says it would be illogical for network carriers to suggest that two flights would be more environmentally friendly than one. According to WIlson, non-stop flights from A to B would make more sense. He also demands that tax revenues should be invested in the development of new forms of propulsion for aviation. However, this is currently not the case, because in some states the governments make no secret of the fact that they want to cross-subsidise rail transport.
In response to accusations of “greenwashing”, which are generally directed against the industry, Wilson said in summary that the development of new forms of drive would not happen overnight and that it would still take some time. The airline industry would make an enormous effort and should also be given the necessary time to deliver.
Klagenfurt should remain in the route network
Referring to Salzburg Airport, Wilson said that business would be very seasonal. In the cold season, demand would be significantly higher than in summer due to the winter sports areas. One sees potential on one route or the other, but the Austrian regional airports are generally very expensive. Ryanair has the highest costs when entering new markets or new airports that were not previously in the route network.
However, this should not rule out that no new routes will be added in Klagenfurt. A corresponding program is currently being prepared for the summer of 2024. In winter 2023/24 you will also be present in Carinthia, but the offer was reduced a few weeks ago. Some destinations that were in the program in the previous season are no longer included.