Tag Archives: Austrian Airlines

Behind the Scenes: Austrian Airlines repatriation flight

From the Austrian Airlines blog:

What does a typical repatriation flight look like? Which steps are taken and what are the challenges? Our pilot Reinhard reveals more here.


COVID-19: One single virus manages to bring the whole world to a standstill within a very short time – and with it, the aviation industry. On March 18, 2020, the regular flight schedule of Austrian Airlines was suspended for the time being. But at this time, many Austrians were still abroad. Without further ado, the Austrian Foreign Ministry launched the initiative of “repatriation flights” to bring stranded Austrians back home as quickly as possible. Austrian Airlines is in constant contact with the Austrian Foreign Ministry to clarify and implement the organisation of repatriation flights. From Lima to Sydney, from Mexico to Indonesia – within a very short time, several thousands of Austrians have already been brought back home. Our personal heroes: The crew and team involved in the repatriation flights. An interview with pilot Dr. Reinhard Lernbeiss now provides us with more information about the planning, procedures and challenges.

First things first: How are you?


Dr. Reinhard Lernbeiss:

Me and my family are doing well. Nevertheless, the virus is present and is getting closer. It is a queasy feeling when you hear from acquaintances that they have been infected.

At the moment we are also a little worried about my father-in-law. He is currently in Mumbai and is supposed to get evacuated via Prague. So I do not just see the situation as someone who acts, but also as someone who hopes and trusts.

How did you find out about the Austrian repatriation flights and how can you participate as an Austrian pilot?

Dr. Reinhard Lernbeiss:

The principle of voluntariness applies here first. The return flights do not just expose you to an increased risk of infection, they also require a high level of commitment. There is no routine. At any border of the airspace it can now happen that the entry permit is no longer valid. This can lead to negotiations and necessary coordination, which requires the highest level of diplomatic assistance. On top of this, of course, the organisation with local authorities and the respective health requirements have to be taken into account. Thus, everything takes much longer and decisions are currently far more complex than before. Each pilot has to decide individually, in view of his personal environment and his own family, whether he or she wants to volunteer for our repatriation operations.


Another important aspect is our licensing framework. Even though the EASA (=European Union Aviation Safety Agency) and national authorities advocate very good possibilities for mitigation (temporary exceptions and solutions to bridge and cope with the usual valid and restrictive limits and regulations for pilots and crews), pilots in particular have to remain “current”. This means that they have to take off and land at least one aircraft on a regular basis in order to maintain their entitlement. This represents a considerable challenge for an airline, because this is precisely what is required for the airline’s ability to act and is immensely important for the so-called “ramp-up”, i.e. the ramping up of operations at the end of the crisis. For this reason, the “Recency”, i.e. the validity of the authorization, is also selected from the group of volunteers. Another important aspect is the validity of the entry visa. In many countries there are considerable restrictions and limitations, especially for people who have already had contact with COVID-19 patients.

Which repatriation flights have you already conducted? Is the route network different to the regular one?

Dr. Reinhard Lernbeiss:

At the moment, most of us have completed about two or three of these flights. The program is currently becoming a little denser, as cargo flights are now being added. Just last week, for example, medical supplies were flown in from China, which were necessary for hospitals in Tyrol and South Tyrol. Most of the destinations are not part of the regular Austrian route network. Currently, for example, I am waiting for the departure from Bali to Vienna with a stopover in Kuala Lumpur. But there have also been flights to Lima, Mexico City or Sydney – in all cases, the cabin was completely occupied.

During the last two weeks, we flew home more than 3,500 people from all over the world. Additional repatriation flights will follow this week from Lima, Denpasar & Kuala Lumpur on behalf of @mfa_austria. Huge thanks to our great employees who made this possible!

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How does it feel to be told that you can operate a repatriation flight?

Dr. Reinhard Lernbeiss:

A sober attitude is essential. Based on facts. You have to put emotions aside and keep cool. Anyhow, I would say that Austrians can be really proud of their country. It is implemented much better than in many other countries. However, we also have to be aware of this after the crisis. In any case, the people on our flights are incredibly grateful and proud to be Austrians.

Were you even able to get prepared for the flights? If so, did you have any special briefings?

Dr. Reinhard Lernbeiss:

Most of the flights are certainly no typical routine flights. We have a few important guidelines, but of course they cannot cover all eventualities. For example, at this very moment, I received a call that we have to remove the aircraft at the airport in Bali. The airport manager is not even allowed to do this with the help of our technicians by himself. I wasn’t supposed to be at the airport within the next five hours, but now I have to leave earlier. Those are things you cannot prepare – and this is quite harmless.

Great welcoming committee in red for our repatriation flight coming from Denpasar/Kuala Lumpur! Btw, our crew will take the OE-LPD, whose wing they are standing under, on a record flight shortly. Stay tuned!

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How do the repatriation flights differ from the “normal” flights?


Dr. Reinhard Lernbeiss:

As many might suspect, we do not have doctors on board. From an epidemiological point of view, it would be unwise. But there are representatives of the Foreign Ministry, who are currently doing an incredible job with the local authorities. This can be particularly challenging, as the number of passengers and, above all, the amount of freight fluctuates considerably. One thing is immensely important for us even in times of crisis: the correct loading of the aircraft. This is essential for reasons of flight safety. An experienced technician checks the aircraft, takes care of the refuelling and is absolutely indispensable at the airports, where we do not have any contractual partners in the usual way.

However, the current situation is also very difficult for the cabin crew. They are used to not just accompany passengers with a lot of charm and their famous smile, but also to inspire them. In times of COVID-19, however, the new etiquette is called “distance” and the smile behind the mask is not visible. For our flight attendants, who live the “Charming Way to Fly” even off duty, this is a great challenge. But they still master it with a lot of charm and tact.

How does the boarding of the passengers proceed?

Dr. Reinhard Lernbeiss:

Thanks to the support of the Austrian Foreign Ministry, which is doing incredible work in advance of each and every flight, things are progressing a little slower than usual, but nevertheless always in a controlled and orderly manner. There are always fever measurements and medical check-ups. But with every flight we keep learning and can improve and optimise our procedures.

How does a typical repatriation flight look like?

Dr. Reinhard Lernbeiss:

Usually you get informed at short notice before the actual flight. No more than one or two days before. The flight briefing then takes place in our headquarters building, which is currently occupied by hardly anyone except the crew. A cabin crew team leader is available for all kinds of questions, but most of the information is sent electronically in advance. Due to the short-term nature and flexibility, it can happen that one or another approval has to be submitted later.


It is also possible that we have to go through a questionnaire with the medical service via satellite phone during the flight, which local authorities have issued only a few minutes before and which are suddenly necessary for the respective entry. The briefing before the flight is intensive and we try to cover numerous eventualities as a team. The outbound flight is completely empty, except for the crew and team. On site, our catering is handed out on the ground even before boarding, in order to comply with the hygiene regulations. Our flight attendants have to keep their distance for the entire flight and wear protective masks.

What happens after the repatriation flights? Any specific measures?

Dr. Reinhard Lernbeiss:

In terms of crew and passengers, our options here are somewhat limited. Therefore, no special measures can be taken, but tracking does exist. So if a passenger or crew member is tested positive for COVID-19 or shows symptoms, everyone will be informed and asked to follow certain procedures, depending on the type of contact. Aircraft cleaning, which was also carried out thoroughly before the crisis, is now being conducted even more intensively and manually. The entire aircraft gets disinfected and checked several times.

Thank you, Reinhard, for taking the time to answer our questions. At the same time we would like to thank you, all involved parties and our crew for your tireless efforts and the seamless implementation. A further thank you to the Austrian Foreign Ministry, for the trust and excellent cooperation.

Austrian Airlines extends temporary cessation of flight operations until May 3, 2020

Austrian Airlines has issued this statement:

More than 6,000 Austrians have been brought home safely
Airlift to Asia: 180 tons of protective clothing transported to Austria up until now
Austrian Airlines continues to stand ready to slowly relaunch operations

The worldwide entry bans imposed as a consequence of the coronavirus are expected to continue or will even be extended. For this reason, Austrian Airlines will also prolong the cessation of its regular scheduled flight operations by another two weeks, from April 19, 2020 to May 3, 2020. This decision was made today by the Management Board. Moreover, the launch of flight service to Boston, USA, originally planned for June, will be delayed once again due to American travel restrictions.

“It goes without saying that we will continue to carry out our repatriation and freight flights for medical supplies”, says Austrian Airlines CCO Andreas Otto. In the past weeks more than 6,000 stranded Austrians were brought home on behalf of the Austrian Federal Government. This has been complemented by the 180 tons of protective clothing transported to Vienna from China and Malaysia.

About an hour ago a Boeing 767 aircraft took off from Vienna Airport to Shanghai in order to pick up 13 tons of medical protection clothing. In addition, a long-haul Boeing 777 aircraft will depart tomorrow for Abuja, the capital city of Nigeria, under contract from the Federal Ministry for European and International Affairs, to bring home stranded Austrians.

“The precise time when regular flight operations are resumed remains to be seen and depends more on the underlying conditions than on us”, CCO Andreas Otto states. “We continue to stand ready for a new and slow relaunch”.

Rebooking possibilities and waiver policy for passengers
In this regard, Austrian Airlines is offering all passengers an expanded waiver policy. Tickets with a departure date up until April 30, 2021, which were booked or will be booked up until April 19, 2020 can be held in abeyance.

Passengers will have the opportunity to rebook their flights on an alternative travel date (start of the new trip up to April 30, 2021) and, as the case may be, to another destination.

Passengers whose rebooked flight takes place before December 31, 2020 will also receive an additional EUR 50 ticket value. Passengers can take advantage of the waiver policy to hold their tickets in abeyance or rebook their flights by either calling the Austrian Airlines Service Center or using the designated contact form. Passengers who have booked their flights via travel agencies are requested to contact them.

Austrian Airlines aircraft photo gallery:

Austrian Airlines repatriates more than 3,500 people

Austrian Airlines has made this announcement on March 27:

During the last two weeks, we flew home more than 3,500 people from all over the world.

Additional repatriation flights will follow this week from Lima, Denpasar and Kuala Lumpur on behalf of Österreichisches Außenministerium.

Next week there will be more. Huge thanks to our great employees who made this possible!

All photos by the airline.

Austrian Airlines extends temporary cessation of flight operations until April 19, 2020

Austrian Airlines has made this announcement:

All scheduled flights will be removed from the booking system

Short-time work: all of the approx. 7,000 employees have been put on short time working at least up until April 19th

The worldwide entry bans imposed as a consequence of the coronavirus have not been relaxed and there is still little demand for air travel. For this reason, Austrian Airlines will cease all regular flight operations until April 19, 2020. Two Boeing 777 long-haul aircraft flew to Punta Cana, Havana and Mexico City on behalf of the Austrian Federal Ministry of European and International Affairs to bring home Austrians stranded abroad.

Austrian Airlines originally announced a temporary cessation of its scheduled air traffic until March 28, 2020. Passengers booked on flights during this period will be rebooked on other airlines if possible. Passengers can also rebook their airline tickets or arrange for them to be held in abeyance for the time being.

Short time working for all Austrian Airlines employees extended at least until April 19, 2020
Austrian Airlines has reached an agreement with the Works Council, trade union and the Federal Economic Chamber on a short time working model. The country’s red-white-red flag carrier had previously submitted an application to the Austrian Public Employment Service (AMS) for short-time work on March 6, 2020.

The cornerstones of the agreement are as follows:

The “corona short time working” model stipulates a reduction of working time down to a minimum of 10 percent while ensuring payment of up to 90 percent of employee salaries. The difference will be covered by AMS funding or by Austrian Airlines. The airline originally concluded this agreement for a period of one month beginning on March 20, 2020, including a months-long extension option depending on the further development of the situation. The maximum possible duration of short-time working is six months.

In principle, all executives have also been put on short time working. However, the Management Board has the possibility to exempt employees from short time working for reason of operational requirements. In this case it is agreed that a salary waiver will take effect.

Austrian Airlines aircraft photo gallery:

Austrian Airlines to temporary terminate all flight operations

Austrian Airlines has made this announcement:

All regular flights will be removed from the flight schedule until further notice

Austrian Airlines has decided to temporarily terminate all regular flight operations starting Wednesday night, March 18, 2020.

This move is in response to entry bans being imposed across the globe and a rapid decline in demand for air travel. The last flight for the time being departing from Chicago with the flight number OS 066 will land in Vienna on March 19, 2020 in the morning hours. Up until then flight operations will be scaled back in a controlled and structured manner in order to bring all passengers, crews and aircraft home if possible. Initially, Austrian Airlines will cancel all flights up until March 28, 2020. Passengers who have booked a flight during the time will be rebooked on other airlines if possible.

If necessary, for example in cases of a need for evacuation and other relief or emergency flights, Austria’s red-white-red flag carrier will keep one long-haul aircraft and one medium-haul jet ready for operation. The relief flights will be carried out in close cooperation with the Austrian Federal Government. “As Austria’s national carrier, we are aware of our responsibility and will cooperate with the government and try to bring home as many Austrians as possible”, says Austrian Airlines CEO Alexis von Hoensbroech. In the coming days the airline will increasingly carry out evacuation flights and rely upon the offering of the Lufthansa Group for rebooking passengers.

In general, Austrian Airlines passengers on cancelled flights will be rebooked

Passengers on flights planned within the next 48 hours and cancelled in response to the current situation will be automatically rebooked. Austrian Airlines asks passengers with such a flight to check the status of their rebooking on austrian.com under “My Bookings” within the next 48 hours. Customers who have provided a telephone number or e-mail address as well as members of the frequent flyer program Miles & More will be automatically informed about changes in the flight schedule by SMS or email. It is not necessary to contact the Austrian Airlines Service Hotline.

Flights scheduled later than 48 hours in the future will be directly rebooked by the Austrian Airlines Service Center. In this case, customers who have listed their telephone numbers or e-mail addresses at the time of booking will be informed about the status change of their flights. The Austrian Airlines Service Hotline at +43 5 1766 1000 is available to answer all questions relating to flight bookings. However, longer waiting times are to be expected due to the high volume of inquiries.

Passengers can help relieve the pressure on the hotline!

Austrian Airlines kindly asks passengers whose planned flights are not scheduled during the next seven days to refrain from contacting the service hotline in the days ahead. In this way, they will give the service employees the possibility to first deal with passengers who would normally be departing in the next week. These passengers will also be rebooked and correspondingly informed as needed.

As was announced last week, Austrian Airlines offers an expanded opportunity for passengers to rebook their flights on a goodwill basis. Tickets with a departure date before April 30, 2020 which were booked up until March 12, 2020 will be kept in abeyance and remain valid for the time being. Passengers will then have the chance up until June 1, 2020 to select a new travel date and, if need be, to choose another destination. In order to take advantage of this offer, passengers can contact the Austrian Airlines Service Center by telephone or make use of the contact form available on the Austrian Airlines Website at http://www.austrian.com. Passengers who booked a flight before March 16, 2020 with a scheduled departure after March 18, 2020 will either be rebooked on another Lufthansa Group airline.

Austrian Airlines CCO Andreas Otto asks all customers to be patient. “Our employees are doing their best to process requests as quickly as possible. However, there are longer waiting times as a result of the high volume of inquiries. For this reason, I am kindly asking that you display patience. Rest assured that nobody will be let down here. All customer inquiries will be handled by us”, he states.

Stranded Austrians can contact the Federal Ministry of European and International Affairs
Austrian Airlines is in contact with the Austrian Federal Ministry of European and International Affairs to clarify issues relating to the operation of additional evacuation flights to bring back Austrians who are abroad. For this reason, Austrian Airlines asks all Austrians who are stranded in other countries and who want to return home to get in touch with the hotline of the Federal Ministry of European and International Affairs at +43 1 90115 4411.

Short-time work for Austrian Airlines employees

On March 6, 2020, Austrian Airlines submitted an application for short-time work for the entire company. At present, it is negotiating an agreement with the Works Council in order to adapt to the new situation. Relevant details are planned to be presented in the course of this week.

Austrian Airlines is preparing for a relaunch after the crisis

In the meantime, Austrian Airlines is preparing to relaunch operations after the crisis. The airline is taking a flexible approach towards restarting the business “so that we can be ready to go as soon as possible once demand recovers”, CEO Alexis von Hoensbroech explains, “This is not a ‘goodbye’, it’s a ‘servus” and ‘see you later’.“

Austrian Airlines aircraft photo gallery:

Due to coronavirus Austrian Airlines reduces its continental flight schedule by 20%

Austrian Airlines made this announcement:

Twelve short- and medium-haul aircraft and two long-haul jets currently remain on the ground calculative
• Reduction throughout the European network

Austrian Airlines has previously announced the cancellation of 40 percent of the Italian flights in March and April, as well as the further cancellation of flights to Tehran and China.

Now the red-white-red airline must carry out further schedule thinning. Austrian Airlines is cancelling 20 percent of all flights in the entire continental network in the month of March. This affects the entire route network within Europe, inner-Austrian connections are also affected. However, all destinations will continue to be served by Austrian Airlines. The already published thinning of the flight offer to Italy is included in this cancellation. Flights will be cancelled in the period from March 8 to 28, passengers will be automatically rebooked on other flights or receive a refund. As a result of this reduction, twelve short- and medium-haul aircraft of Austrian Airlines will remain on the ground calculative. The previously announced flight cancellations of Beijing and Shanghai will add two more long-haul jets in March and April.

Passengers whose flights have been cancelled can of course rebook free of charge or receive a refund on request. Austrian Airlines asks all passengers who have booked an Italy connection in the affected period to check the status of their flight on austrian.com under “My Bookings”. Passengers who provided their telephone number or e-mail address during the booking procedure as well as members of the frequent flyer program Miles & More will be informed automatically via SMS or e-mail of flight changes.


Austrian Airlines aircraft photo gallery:

Lufthansa Group cancels all flights to China

Lufthansa Group has made this announcement:

The safety of passengers and employees is a top priority for the Lufthansa Group. After thoroughly evaluating all currently available information on the corona virus, Lufthansa Group has decided to suspend its Lufthansa, Swiss and Austrian Airlines flights to/from mainland China until February 9, 2020 with immediate effect. In addition, acceptance of bookings for flights to/from (mainland) China has been suspended until the end of February. Flight operations to/from Hong Kong will continue as planned. The Lufthansa Group will continuously monitor the situation of the corona virus and is in contact with the responsible authorities.

Lufthansa, Swiss and Austrian Airlines will fly to their respective destinations in mainland China one more time. This is intended to give our guests the opportunity to take their planned flight and our crews to return to Germany, Switzerland and Austria.

The Lufthansa Group offers a total of 54 regular weekly connections from Germany, Switzerland and Austria to the Chinese mainland. Destinations are Nangjing, Beijing, Shanghai, Shenyang and Qingdao. Furthermore, Lufthansa Group airlines offer 19 weekly connections to Hong Kong.