Austrian Airlines set to launch new Iraq route

El Sanadily

AUSTRIAN Airlines has endeared itself to travellers around the region with pocket-friendly fares into Europe.

While continuing that policy, the airline plans to expand into newer markets, Karim El Sanadily, Austrian Airlines regional manager, Gulf and Lebanon, tells CLARK KELLY. Excerpts:

What passenger volumes does your airline get out of the Middle East?
Through the year we are between 75 and 85 per cent load factor, as compared to capacity offered in the market 

Are you launching new routes and services into the region soon?
We have identified a new destination, Erbil in Iraq, and we will launch services once we clarify certain safety and security matters. So we don’t have a fixed date so far. We are also researching some other destinations in the Gulf and are waiting for a final decision.

What about Lebanon? Are there plans to restart services ?
Concerning Lebanon, we had to stop our flights during the war and so far no plans to start anew in year 06/07.

What new initiatives are you offering regional travellers?
We are now running a promotion of Dh1700 ($462.8) to certain destinations in Europe. We also arrange special packages and tours for those of our clients who are looking for a full organized trips to Austria and the surrounding counties. 
As budget airlines like Easyjet start flying to Turkey, is Austrian’s business likely to be threatened by future budget services between Europe and the Middle East? 
I do agree with you, these low-cost carriers can be considered a future threat to scheduled-service airlines but for the time being they don’t have a strong presence here in the Middle East. Also, the passengers in this region still want the quality of service that only the scheduled airlines provide.

Austrian has just closed a few routes into Asia. How will this impact your operations in the region? Will you divert some of the fleet to service the region or expand your European network?
The main reason for closing destinations, of course, is cost, it directly influences profitability. Secondly, we look at how these routes contribute to our network. We have a very efficient team who analyse all results before taking such a decision. I do not see any direct influence on the Dubai-Vienna route and as you are already aware we have added one more flight to Dubai starting October 29, so we now have a daily schedule between the cities.