Booming VIA ‘must step on the gas’ for Skylink

Vienna International Airport (VIA) recorded significantly more passengers year on year in 2010 – and bosses said they expected customer figures to soar further this year.VIA announced today (Weds) it registered 19.69 million passengers last year, up by 8.7 per cent compared to 2009. The airport, which is located near Schwechat in Lower Austria, explained it expected the number of travellers to climb by another five per cent year on year in 2011.VIA, which is handled by the Flughafen Wien AG company, pointed out that its passenger increase in 2010 was twice as strong as the average improvement of figures registered by other  airports across Europe in the same year.VIA said 50.9 per cent of all flights that landed and arrived in 2010 were operated by Austrian Airlines (AUA). The former figurehead of Austrian aviation was taken over by Germany’s Lufthansa in 2009.Around 10 per cent of all flights at VIA in 2010 were FlyNiki connections, while Air Berlin had a seven per cent share ahead of Lufthansa with nearly five per cent.Detailed figures presented today also show that most flights were bound for Frankfurt in Germany, with London in second and Zurich in third.News that VIA handled more flights in 2010 than in the year may surprise some considering the shutdown of European airspace for passenger flights following the spreading of an ash cloud sparked by an erupting volcano in Iceland. VIA was also forced to cancel some flights around Christmas due to strong snowfall and thick fog although airports in France, Belgium, Germany and Great Britain were hit worse by the weather conditions than Austria’s biggest and busiest aerodrome.Flughafen Wien AG boss Christoph Herbst said today that the airport “will have to step on the gas” to open the new Skylink terminal on time.Construction of the project was halted for nearly one year in 2009 after a report by weekly magazine profil revealed that overall costs could range at around 900 million Euros. Airport chiefs said costs will not surpass 400 million Euros when the project was presented. Managers initially planned to put Skylink into operation in 2008.Herbert Kaufmann was forced to leave the executive board by the end of 2010 after a 14-hour meeting with VIA’s supervisory board. Gerhard Schmid and Ernest Gabmann, the other co-chairmen, have agreed to leave later this year.The provincial governments of Vienna and Lower Austria both hold a 20 per cent interest in Flughafen Wien AG. They were harshly criticised by opposition leaders over the extension of  the co-chiefs’ contracts by another five years in 2009 despite the Skylink project troubles.Herbst eventually decided to head the executive board until a new three-member board is assigned. He said VIA is looking for aviation managers with international experience to take over from him.The current VIA boss said he was confident that Skylink will start doing business in 2012, which VIA’s executive board and supervisory panel agreed would be the the new opening year.Herbst said costs will not be higher than 830 million Euros, but also made clear Skylink will go into full operation at once and not open step by step. He added Flughafen Wien AG, which is listed on the Vienna Stock Exchange (WBAG), will not be in need of a capital increase to finance the project.