North African unrest grounds AUA ticket sales

Austrian Airlines (AUA) has identified the upheaval in North Africa as the main reason for its recent decline in passenger numbers.AUA said today (Thurs) it registered a total of 649,000 customers last month, down by 1.6 per cent compared to February 2010. The airline said especially the number of tickets sold for flights to destinations in North Africa had dwindled.Around 68.5 per cent of all tickets offered by the aviation company last month were sold, down from 73.1 per cent in the same month of last year.AUA was taken over by German airline Lufthansa in 2009. The former Austrian flagship carrier recorded 10.9 million passengers in 2010.The Viennese firm made a loss of 44 million Euros in the first 10 months of last year. Lufthansa chiefs want AUA to achieve operating profits of 50 million Euros this year, according to business newspapers.News that AUA passenger figures dropped last month comes one day after Air Berlin – a major competitor of the airline – revealed plans to set up a new connection between a city in Germany and the Upper Austrian provincial capital of Linz.The low cost airline explained it will start to operate between Berlin and Austria’s third-most populated city from May.Air Berlin served 33.6 million customers last year. The Berlin-based aviation company cooperates with Austrian no-frills carrier FlyNiki.