Vienna calling:* easyJet answers

Image: Vienna Calling music video screencap
* “Vienna calling” was a UK number 10 hit for Falco in May 1986 although he is best known for “Rock me Amadeus” which was a global hit topping the charts all across Europe in 1985/86 (including the normally more parochial UK) and even in the US.

easyJet will finally enter the Austrian market when it starts a daily service from London Luton to Vienna at the end of October. The air passenger market between London and Vienna has been fairly static over the last few years and has still to pass the 800,000 mark achieved in 1998.

Traffic had even fallen to under 700,000 in 2003 but has since recovered thanks to niki, the Austrian LCC part-owned by Air Berlin, which started a double daily service in late 2004. This was then reduced to daily and finally abandoned on the first of May this year with the airline now offering connections via Nuremberg instead. The popularity of niki’s service may not have been helped by the 05:55 departure time from Vienna. Buzz had also served the Stansted to Vienna market from 1 January 2000 until the end of the summer 2001 season.

Chart: London - Vienna annual passengers

London – mature but still biggest

Despite its relative lack of growth London remains Vienna airport’s busiest route ahead of Frankfurt, Zurich, Paris and Düsseldorf. Vienna’s location makes it an ideal hub between Western Europe and Eastern Europe. In 2006 the top Eastern European destinations were Moscow, Bucharest, Warsaw and Sofia. New York was toppled from its position as top long-haul destination by Bangkok.

Transfers: one third of all traffic

Overall passenger numbers grew in 2006 by 6.3% with transfer traffic representing just over one-third of all traffic. Since 2002 total traffic has grown by nearly 5 million passengers, or just over 40%

Traffic Growth at Vienna Airport (2002-2006)
2002 11.97m  
2003 12.79m +6.9%
2004 14.79m +15.6%
2005 15.86m +7.3%
2006 16.86m +6.3%
Source: Vienna Airport website

2007: SkyEurope gambles on Vienna

So far in 2007 traffic growth has averaged a healthy 8%. Although Austrian Airlines remains the airport’s largest airline with 57% of passengers, in 2006 low-cost carriers accounted for around 13% of traffic. Air Berlin and niki’s combined share was around 11% of traffic with Germanwings just 2%. Since the end of March SkyEurope, headquartered just over the border at Bratislava in Slovakia, has based two aircraft at Vienna and will be serving 16 destinations during the summer. This should see the share of LCC traffic rise still further. According to recent SkyEurope presentations most of its planned growth for the next few years will be focused on Vienna, a decision which could make or break the so far unprofitable airline.

Image: Vienna terminal
Vienna’s Skylink project is described as an extension, but is effectively a new terminal – at 140,000sqm, it will double the size of the airport’s terminal space. The €400m building, due to open in late 2008, will adjoin the existing Terminal 2.

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