AUA passenger numbers up

Bosses at struggling Austrian Airlines (AUA) hope for a “return of passengers” as the former Austrian flagship carrier had more customers last month year on year.AUA co-chiefs  Peter Malanik and Andreas Bierwirth said today (Thurs) the company had 1.015 million passengers in May, up by 16.1 per cent to the same month of last year.The AUA heads further announced passenger figures soared by 6.9 per cent between January and May of this year compared to the first five months of 2009 – despite the several lockdowns of Europe-wide air traffic due to the spreading of the Icelandic ash cloud.”It seems passengers return to flying AUA,” Malanik announced, adding that the firm managed to sell 74.8 per cent of tickets last month, up by 4.3 per cent year on year.AUA was taken over by German aviation giant Lufthansa last year in a step which was regarded by many analysts as the final straw to avoid the Viennese firm from going bankrupt. A drastic cost-cutting scheme and the dismissal of hundreds of employees in various departments followed.Lufthansa officials said the airline – which recently also took over rivals BMI and Brussels Airlines – had 5.4 million passengers last month, up by 10.5 per cent. They however added that the number of customers from January to May 2010 declined by 0.4 year on year.Martin Hehemann, a spokesman for AUA, announced only recently the company was checking the possibility of legal action against European air traffic safety body Eurocontrol over its decision-making as the volcanic ash cloud spread across the continent.AUA may team up with FlyNiki, its key competitor, in its attempt to be compensated suffered losses. FlyNiki CEO Niki Lauda announced already in March he planned to sue Eurocontrol.