British Airways and Virgin will soon be the only European carriers flying to Australia following Austrian Airlines' decision to drop Sydney and Melbourne from its network.
Rising fuel costs and uneconomical fares are behind Austrian's decision to axe its nine times a week service to Sydney and Melbourne. Flights were operated by a mixture of B777s and B767s and it will also mean that Kuala Lumpur and Singapore (cities where the flights made an en route stop) will also be dropped.
In a statement, the Vienna-based carrier says, "Qualititive [ie profitable] growth in our network, especially against the background of high kerosene prices, demands the suspension of low yield routes. As the Australian services consist of four single sectors [to and from Vienna] which are Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Sydney and Melbourne they have become especially cost-intensive. We will suspend all routes by the end of March 2007 and are currently looking for alternative long-haul destinations that will provide adequate contribution [through connecting traffic to and from Vienna] to our European network."
The service from Vienna was originally started by independent carrier Lauda Air some years ago which was later acquired by Austrian. The original service was very successful because Lauda brought stylish service to the route along with keenly priced tickets and it appealed to passengers from all over Europe who would make connections at Vienna.
But fares to Australia have fallen in real terms over the years thanks to increasing competition from the Gulf and Asian carriers and it is increasingly difficult for Western carriers to make a profit.
Star Alliance loyalty members will lose a direct link with Australia. But there are plenty of indirect flight alternatives operated by SIA, Thai and ANA.
For more information go to aua.com
Report by Alex McWhirter