AUA passenger numbers up sharply

Austrian Airlines (AUA) seems to be back on the road to recovery as it continues to serve more and more customers.AUA said today (Mon) it had 1.1 million passengers last month, up by 11.2 per cent year on year. The airline – which was taken over by Lufthansa last year after it was on the brink of bankruptcy – added that 81 per cent of all tickets on sale were sold in September (September 2009: 78 per cent).These figures mean that the company had 3.4 million passengers in the third quarter of this year, up by 12.3 per cent compared to the same period of 2009.AUA, which has laid off hundreds of employees over the past few months, registered 8.4 million customers between January and September 2010, up by 10.3 per cent compared to the first three quarters of the previous year.AUA owner Lufthansa announced today it had 44 million passengers in the first nine months of this year, around five per cent more than in the same time span of 2009. Its occupancy rate rose by 2.2 per cent to 79.9 per cent, added the company, which is the biggest airline in Europe.AUA co-chiefs Andreas Bierwirth and Peter Malanik recently warned they would continue to reduce staff numbers. The company currently has around 6,600 staff. Bierwirth and Malanik announced the plan was to reduce this figure to 6,000 by December in their bid to get AUA back in the black.AUA, which was founded in 1957, suffered operative losses of 67 million Euros in the first half of this year. The company’s losses had reached 93.5 million Euros in the first six months of the previous year.The company’s new co-chiefs explained recently introduced restoration and re-organisation measures would have a stronger impact as the year comes to an end, adding that this development would help AUA to reduce losses. Bierwirth and Malanik said the plan was to spend 250 millions less year on year in 2010.AUA is the most important business partner of Vienna International Airport (AUA). Around one in two arrivals to and departures from Austria’s biggest airport – which is located near Schwechat just outside of Vienna – is operated by AUA.Meanwhile, one of AUA’s major rivals has launched a second daily connection between Vienna and the Bulgarian capital Sofia.FlyNiki explained it started operating morning and evening flights during the week earlier this month, with one connection per day on Saturdays and Sundays. This announcement means that the no frills carrier is increasing its efforts to outdo AUA and Bulgaria Air. Both firms offer flights on the route as well.FlyNiki, which cooperates with key Lufthansa competitor Air Berlin, started offering a daily link between Vienna and Sofia earlier this year.The firm, which was founded by Niki Lauda seven years ago, served 2.6 million customers in 2009. Lauda recently announced the plan was to have more than three million passengers this year.Air Berlin increased its stake in FlyNiki by 25.9 per cent to 49.9 per cent with an option for a total takeover in February. In a bid to rubbish speculations he is considering leaving the company, Lauda pointed out at that time: “I am and will remain a major stakeholder and the boss of my airline.”