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22. 05. 12. - 16:18

Ambhl at the ready for AUA affiliate

Gaudenz Ambühl has been named new head of Austrian Airlines (AUA) Group member Tyrolean Airways.

The Swiss aviation industry businessman previously acted in the executive board of Lufthansa Group subsidiary company Swiss where he carried out a strict cost-cutting regime to get the ailing airline back on track. Swiss is one of the strongest assets of the German aviation giant today. AUA lost around 60 million Euros last year. The carrier was taken over by Lufthansa in 2009.

Austrian newspaper Die Presse describes Ambühl as a "consequent hardliner" and Jaan Albrecht’s "man for hard cases". Albrecht headed Star Alliance before taking over at AUA in November 2011. He recently decided that AUA pilots must accept wage cuts of around 25 per cent – despite warnings of a strike by unionists.

The AUA contract reform – which is set to come into effect in July – means that the contracts of the firm’s pilots soon resemble those of their colleagues at Tyrolean Airways as far as salary regulations are regarded. The AUA board rejected works council leaders’ suggestions how costs could be cut before pressing on with the disputed reform. Albrecht claimed that the paper presented failed to feature any long-lasting positive effects on AUA’s financial condition.

Meanwhile, former FlyNiki chief Niki Lauda has harshly criticised the austerity course the firm he founded is currently on. Lauda established FlyNiki in 2003, two years after selling Lauda Air to AUA. Lauda said: "I would not change anything about FlyNiki (...). The airline is highly profitable."

Air Berlin head Hartmut Mehdorn underlined earlier this month that FlyNiki must reduce its costs by 12 million Euros this year. Air Berlin started cooperating with FlyNiki in 2004. The Berlin-based budget carrier, which had around 35 million customers last year, recently took over FlyNiki. Lauda resigned as FlyNiki CEO to join Air Berlin’s administrative board.

Mehdorn explained that Air Berlin must reduce its spending by 250 million Euros altogether. The ex-Deutsche Bahn (DB) chief claimed that FlyNiki’s annual financial performance was seriously worsened by the Austrian tax on flight tickets. The levy will cause costs of 20 million Euros to FlyNiki this year, according to the carrier’s CEO Christian Lesjak.

FlyNiki reportedly wants catering company DO&CO to charge less. At the same time, the airline and the Viennese firm headed by Attila Dogudan could agree on an extension of their partnership. "Lufthansa used to be one of the best airlines. (...) Now they invest less on catering but jack up ticket prices. Air Berlin got infected as they are doing the same," Lauda said.

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