Lufthansa wants AUA to be back in the black next year

Lufthansa has said it expects its subsidiary Austrian Airlines (AUA) to be in the black in 2011.The German aviation giant acquired a major interest in the Vienna-based company last year. AUA has carried out a strict cost-cutting programme during the past few months. It said the plan was to reduce its overall staff number of 6,600 to around 6,000 by the end of this year. The firm is expected to offer most affected employees a golden handshake on their departure.Now Lufthansa said it was confident that AUA would be making profit again in 2011. The German firm, which is headed by Austrian Wolfgang Mayrhuber, said it “expected” AUA to suffer losses of 44.4 million Euros in the first three quarters of this year. Lufthansa also said the losses of its subsidiary British Midland Airways (bmi) reached 90 million Euros.Lufthansa, however, also pointed out that both AUA and bmi achieved a “small operative turnover” in the past three months. “There is growing demand for tickets, but both firms did well in working more efficiently,” the Cologne-based company announced.AUA registered 8.4 million passengers between January and September of this year, up by 10.3 per cent compared to figures in the same period of 2009.The firm, which was founded in 1957, has been harshly criticised by the Carinthian department of the Austrian Economy Chamber (WKO) recently for refusing to make a U-turn on axing its 6am flight from Klagenfurt to Vienna.AUA argued the early flight had not been profitable, while the local WKO branch said Carinthian businessmen would face severe difficulties in the future as a result of the cancellation.”The flight made it possible to arrange meetings starting at 8am in Vienna. Businessmen were able to organise their workday economically,” a spokesman said.The earliest connection in the day between the Carinthian city and the federal capital will take off at 8am from November.Meanwhile, AUA co-chief Andreas Malanik hit out at the Austrian government for deciding to issue a tax of eight Euros on every ticket for a flight from Austria to another European country from 2011. Malanik pointed out the levy would make it more difficult for AUA to restore its finances.Malanik voiced fears many potential customers would now take flights departing from Slovakian capital Bratislava or Zurich in Switzerland.The federal coalition government of Social Democrats (SPÖ) and the People’s Party (ÖVP) also said last weekend every flight ticket for connections from Austria to a destination outside Europe would be issued with a 40 Euro charge from next year.Austria and Germany will be the only two countries with such a levy in Europe if the governments eventually pass the previously presented plans in parliament.