VIA mall planned

Vienna International Airport (VIA or VIE) bosses have spoken about their intention to build a shopping centre.

Flughafen Wien (FW) – which operates Austria’s biggest airport – said yesterday (Weds) a 10,000-square metre mall would be constructed in the direct vicinity to VIA in the coming years. The firm said it wanted to set up a hotel on the premises it managed as well. Such activities could give the solid tourism industry another boost. The thousands of hotels of Austria feature more than 1.1 million beds. They registered 28 million overnight stays in the most recent skiing season (November 2011 to January 2012), up by 0.6 per cent compared to the 2010/2011 winter vacation period.

Overall investments into VIA will shrink nevertheless, according to FW co-CEO Julian Jäger. The ex-Malta International Airport (MLA) boss said 590 million Euros would be spent on maintenance and new projects until 2015. Jäger and fellow board member, Günther Ofner, initially intended to spend 650 million Euros.

The city of Vienna and the Lower Austrian government – which is headed by People’s Party (ÖVP) Governor Erwin Pröll – hold 20 per cent of FW stakes each. No other political institution or private investor is engaged more strongly in the firm which is listed on the Vienna Stock Exchange (WBAG). Some experts criticise lawmakers’ considerable influence on decision-making at FW. They argue that the company could operate more efficiently if it were to get the chance to act independently from Vienna city hall and the provincial government of Lower Austria where VIA is located.

Ofner announced that FW made a profit of 31.6 million Euros last year. This is a decrease of 58 per cent compared to the previous year. Customer figures increased at the same time. Around 19.7 million passengers were registered at VIA – where around 80 airlines are operating – in 2010 before 21.1 million were counted in the next year.

Salzburg Airport W. A. Mozart (SZG) is Austria’s second-busiest airport. However, VIA is rather pressurised by Prague Ruzyne International Airport (PRG) in the Czech Republic and M. R. Stefanik Airport (BTS) near Bratislava, Slovakia, where several low-cost carriers are operating.

FlyNiki has a leadership position among the budget airlines which offer flights at VIA. However, FlyNiki rival Austrian Airlines (AUA) is of even greater importance to FW’s prosperity. More than 50 per cent of all takeoffs and arrivals at VIA – which is situated near Schwechat – are AUA services.

Jäger said yesterday FW recently decided to lower the charges AUA must pay for the various services carried out by the airport’s personnel. FW granted discounts to the Viennese carrier shortly after its new CEO, Jaan Albrecht, appealed to AUA’s business partners to help the carrier in getting forward on its road to recovery.

AUA was taken over by Germany’s Lufthansa in September 2009. Booming Basel-based airline Swiss – which plans to jack up ticket prices – and struggling low-cost carrier Germanwings are also part of the aviation industry giant headed by Christoph Franz since January 2011.