AUA ‘keeps Moscow landing rights’

Austrian Airlines (AUA) will continue to have permission to land in Moscow, according to a newspaper report.Austrian daily Die Presse reports in its edition from today (Fri) that the company keeps its rights to offer connections to Russia.Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin had publicly questioned the bilateral agreement once made between the Austrian and the Russian government after AUA was taken over by German aviation firm Lufthansa.Putin said he wanted Austrian government representatives and AUA officials to prove that the airline was still flying under the Austrian flag to avoid market disparages disparities and a Lufthansa monopoly.Lufthansa took over a majority in AUA in September. Many analysts said this deal saved the former Austrian flagship carrier from bankruptcy. AUA had been in the red for years and saw passengers numbers dwindling due to competition by low-cost competitors.One of them was FlyNiki. Company boss Niki Lauda was one of the most outspoken critics of the AUA-Lufthansa merger since the Austrian government provided around 500 million Euros shortly before Lufthansa decided to take over.Putin meanwhile might come to Austria next month. Newspaper Heute claimed earlier this week the black belt-sporting judo fan will be star guest at the Judo World Championships set to take place between 22 and 25 April in Vienna.Political analysts expected Social Democratic (SPÖ) Chancellor Werner Faymann to discuss the AUA landing rights controversy with the Russian prime minister.There has not been an official confirmation of Putin’s plans to visit Austria yet. Putin only recently rejected an invitation to attend the Europa Forum in the Vorarlberg ski resort Lech. Faymann was forced to call off the event after several other high-profile political leaders did so as well.