Austrian Airlines Boeing 777-200. By Rob Finlayson

Austrian Airlines will join the All Nippon Airways (ANA)-Lufthansa joint venture (JV) on its daily Vienna-Tokyo Narita route from April 1. The Vienna-based airline, which will gain better market-access in Japan, will share revenues with ANA on the route.

Austrian Airlines CCO Karsten Benz told ATW the carrier will also launch a JV with United Airlines on its new Vienna-Chicago O’Hare route from May. “We will get full support from United, which we didn’t have in 2001 and 2008 [on earlier services to Chicago],” he said, adding that load factors on Austrian’s North Atlantic routes to Washington Dulles and New York JFK have been far above 90%.

“Current bookings for our new route to Chicago are promising and above expectations,” he said.

Benz added the airline will “focus now on a successful implementation of both joint ventures, then we [will] look for markets and partners where we can jointly create additional customer value.”

Austrian, which is upgrading its long-haul fleet cabins, is facing delays on the upgrade of its 10 Boeing 767-777s. According to Benz, two 777-200s and one 767-300ER offer the new cabin products. “We have informed our clients that we will reduce a few frequencies during the summer in order to continue our product upgrade,” he said, adding, “Our target to reconfigure all aircraft during the winter season was too ambitious.”

Benz said he sees good progress on the carrier’s load factor. “We continued with a tight capacity management during the winter. In January, demand for air traffic within Europe has been lowered again. Our business becomes more and more seasonal,” he said.

Austrian, a Lufthansa subsidiary, is undergoing a complete restructuring process. Benz said the airline has now stabilized, “but still a ways from being healthy. We will continue to add new products and services to generate more passengers and improving our results. On the other hand, rest assured that we will continue to do our homework in strict cost management,” Benz added.

Austrian is working on new collective working agreements for cockpit/cabin crew and ground staff; it hopes to implement the new contracts this year.