Austrian Airlines Returns to Chicago

Star Alliance member Austrian Airlines is to resume flights from its Vienna International Airport base to Chicago O’Hare International Airport from may next year thanks to an enhance collaboration with its partner carrier United Airlines.  The European flag carrier will offer a five times weekly service from May 17, 2013 using a two-class Boeing 767-300ER.

The new route will bring the carrier’s weekly flights into the North American market to 26 and will complement its existing daily schedules to New York (operated using a 777) and to Washington and Toronto (operated using 767 equipment).  None of the US majors currently serve the Vienna market, while Air Transat has previously offered some seasonal connections to the Austrian capital from Toronto.

Austrian Airlines has served the Vienna – Chicago market on a couple of different occasions.  In the late 1980s the route was served by Royal Jordanian as a continuation of its flights from Amman, while in the early 1990s Romanian carrier Tarom flew the route with flights originating in Bucharest.  Austrian Airlines entered the market in March 2000 and initially operated until October 2001 before returning again between May 2007 and October 2008.

“Austrian Airlines has been part of a transatlantic joint venture with United Airlines and Air Canada since July 2011.  As a result, Austrian Airlines has been able to significantly strengthen its market position on transatlantic flights in the last year,” said Karsten Benz, Chief Commercial Officer, Austrian Airlines.  “The load factor on our flights to the USA to date stood at more than 90% last summer.  Chicago and the western United States show additional potential for us, thanks in particular to our outstanding collaboration with United Airlines.”

Last year an estimated 2.55 million O&D passengers travelled between Europe and Chicago, with around 22,000 passengers flying between Vienna and the US city despite the lack of available direct air services.  The majority of these passengers are travelling via Austrian Airlines’ parent company Lufthansa via its Frankfurt, Dusseldorf and Munich hubs.  When Austrian Airlines last served the Vienna – Chicago market in 2008 approximately 45,000 O&D passengers flew between the destinations.

However, it is not all about the O&D demand on a route like this and like many transatlantic network carriers Austrian Airlines expects the majority of passengers on the route will be transfer traffic connecting in either Vienna or Chicago.  It anticipates that just 30 per cent of the demand will be point-to-point traffic and expects notable flows of passengers from/to Prague, Bucharest, Sofia, Belgrade and Skopje in Europe and cities such as cities such as Los Angeles, San Francisco, Houston, Las Vegas, Denver and Seattle in the US.