Lufthansa boss says VIA is expensive and inefficient

Outgoing Lufthansa chief Wolfgang Mayrhuber has launched a scathing attack at Vienna International Airport (VIA) – and stressed that Austrian Airlines (AUA) must stop making losses.The businessman, who will be succeeded by Christoph Franz as head of the leading airline next month after seven years in charge, said yesterday (Thurs) VIA had the “highest possible costs and lowest efficiency”.Mayrhuber claimed safety checks would take too long and warned that the airport located just outside the Austrian capital was falling behind the Franz Josef Strauss Airport near Munich, Germany.The Upper Austrian added the upcoming flight ticket tax would worsen the position of the whole Austrian economy further. The federal government of Social Democrats (SPÖ) and the People’s Party (ÖVP) agreed recently to charge every ticket for flights departing from Austria with between eight and 35 Euros depending on the destination from next April. This means Austria and Germany will be the only European countries with such a levy.”(Austrian) politicians and works council chiefs kept speaking about trust and reliability when we took over AUA. Now they have let us down right in the middle of our bid to restore AUA’s finances,” Mayrhuber said.The Lufthansa CEO announced recently he expected AUA, which was acquired by his firm in September 2009, to be back in the black as early as in 2011. Mayrhuber explained yesterday that the plan was to lower costs in firm-internal administrative processes but not as far as customer services were regarded.AUA co-chief Andreas Bierwirth announced last month the aviation firm had decided to exchange more than 4,600 of its planes’ cloth seats with modern leather models by next autumn. He added the company board also agreed to reintroduce warm dishes in the economy class of flights lasting longer than two hours starting immediately.Speaking about AUA’s future, Mayrhuber said: “(AUA) loses 180,000 Euros everyday, that has to end.”The entrepreneur, who will keep his seat in AUA’s supervisory board after his retirement as head of Lufthansa, defended the decision to increase the number of AUA co-chiefs.It emerged last week that, to the fury of staff representatives, Frenchman Thierry Antinori will join Bierwirth and Andreas Malanik at the struggling company’s board.Mayrhuber called on AUA to cut costs in its second-highest management level to finance the assignment of Antinori. The Lufthansa head added he was convinced Antinori, who will take office in April, will “step on the gas” in restructuring the former Austrian flagship carrier.Meanwhile, salary negotiation talks between AUA officials and works council chiefs are continuing. Staff representatives have demanded for the inflation rate to be considered in their earnings – a suggestion Mayrhuber ruled out yesterday.AUA’s ground staff, who staged a demonstration at VIA last week, warned they would consider going on strike if their call for higher wages went unheard.AUA recorded 798,100 passengers last month, up by 6.8 per cent compared to customer figures in November 2009.The airline, which was founded in 1957, served 10.2 million customers in the first 11 months of 2010, around 9.9 per cent more than in the same period of last year.