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AUA with a “very positive 2023”, problems in business travel

AUA with a “very positive 2023”, problems in business travel
The AUA back to pre-crisis levels
Image: (APA/AFP/JOE KLAMAR)

AUA board member Michael Trestl said in an APA interview that we can look back on a “very positive year” when it comes to the key figures. However, there is concern about business travel, which has not yet recovered after Corona. When it comes to ticket prices, the all-clear was given for this year: As of now, there will be no significant increases.

Trestl, who is responsible, among other things, for Network Management & Revenue Steering, Sales, IT and Austrian Brand Experience at AUA, did not want to and could not announce the exact figures for 2023, citing the publication of the balance sheet in March. But: “The year went very well, despite all the challenges. Compared to 2022, which was still characterized by Corona, it was significantly better. We have left the pandemic behind us.” In any case, positive quarterly results were published last year. A significant increase was achieved in the third quarter: sales rose by eight percent to 741 million euros compared to the same period last year and the operating result (EBIT) rose by 17 percent to 129 million euros.

In 2023 it will be back to pre-corona levels

As far as “production” – i.e. the number of flights and passengers – is concerned, it will be back to the pre-Corona level in 2023, says Trestl. The board member admitted that it was also “surprising” for those responsible at AUA that air traffic recovered “so quickly and so strongly” after Corona.

However, the AUA manager was worried about business travel. “The business travel segment has not yet recovered and is still not at the same level as before Corona. For example, in 2019 we had a business travel share of 26 percent, private trips made up 74 percent. In 2023, however, business trips only made up 16 percent.” , Trestl specified. There is a segment shift that is also surprising: “It’s probably a structural system change. We also think that it won’t change that quickly. It’s not foreseeable that this will normalize in 2024. We will what business travel As far as this is concerned, this year the figures for 2023 will probably remain.”

On the one hand, the decline in business travel is due to increasing online communication, which has been given a boost by Corona. And on the other hand, companies – in the spirit of “sustainability” – are changing their short trip guidelines and are increasingly relying on other forms of travel such as the train. On the positive side, however, the lost share of business trips was “overcompensated” by an increase in private trips. “Last year we came up with significantly more offerings in the private travel segment and set up around nine new destinations,” recalled Trestl. This year, the AUA will continue its “short-haul expansion.”

Ticket prices remain stable

When it comes to ticket prices, Trestl did not indicate an upward trend: “We are currently assuming a stable price development and no significant ticket price increases.” But you always have to keep in mind that costs will rise significantly in all areas. “The market was able to accept the higher prices last year. However, we assume that we will operate with stable prices this year,” explained the AUA board.

With regard to the constantly virulent capacity development and capacity problems, Trestl predicted a very challenging summer for European aviation. There are “challenges with system partners” that would affect all airlines, the manager alluded to the Airbus problem. The fact that the AUA “mother” Lufthansa suspended both the Linz-Frankfurt and Innsbruck-Frankfurt flights due to Airbus problems at the start of the 2024 summer flight schedule in April was the “consequence of the capacity bottlenecks at Airbus”. Urgent safety maintenance must be carried out on up to 1,000 Airbus A-320 Neo aircraft equipped with engines from the American manufacturer Pratt & Whitney. “There are not enough replacement engines on the world market,” Trestl summed it up. However, the AUA only has five machines of this type in use and is therefore “well under control of the issue.”

With regard to Innsbruck Airport, the aim is to connect the Tyrol economic area “to Europe and the world” in the best possible way. The AUA also sees this as an obligation. Of course, the Innsbruck connection is particularly suffering from the problems in business travel. In addition, “sustainable service also includes economic efficiency”, but the AUA is of course committed to the route to the Tyrolean capital: “This question does not arise.”

Where would he apply the levers to generally address the capacity bottlenecks? You have to ask the question of efficiency, says Trestl. The aviation manager at least questioned the “nation-state organized air traffic control” or the “small-state structured airspace surveillance” to advance joint airspace security in Europe: “We need more of Europe. In order to increase efficiency, increase synergies and much more .”

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