MIAMI – Austrian Airlines (OS) reported today a passenger decline of 84% in the first quarter of 2021, compared to the same period in 2020.

Revenue at the Austrian flag carrier consequently fell by 79%, down to 61 million euros compared to 287 million euros earned in the first quarter last year. The ongoing COVID-19 crisis, and the resulting travel restrictions in Austria and across the globe, are largely to blame for this downturn.

Despite these bleak numbers, executives at Austrian are cautiously optimistic about the near future. “Everyone is looking forward to summer,” the airline said in today’s press release.

An Austrian Airlines Airbus A321-211 comes in for a landing. PC: Alberto Cucini/Airways

Austrian Lockdown and Green Passport

Currently, Austria is still in the middle of a strict lockdown. Restrictions include, but are not limited to, hotel closures for leisure/tourism, restaurants being limited to takeout/delivery, closures of leisure and recreational facilities, and cancellations of most events and mass gatherings. Many other European nations have similar measures in place right now, due to high infection rates and delays in the vaccination process.

Austrian CEO Alexis von Hoensbroech expects these restrictions to ease soon. For the airline’s sake, they need to. “We still have sufficient altitude,” he said, but emphasized that easing restrictions “are crucial for summer recovery.”

Chief Commercial Officer Michael Trestl is pinning his hopes on the Green Passport, the European Union’s solution for making travel easier for vaccinated passengers.

“The rapid introduction of the Green Passport is a prerequisite for a return to more freedom of travel in the summer and will send a clear signal in this direction,” said Trestl. He added: “The associated elimination of mandatory quarantine upon re-entry is essential to make summer travel easier for passengers.”

Hoensbroech believes Austrians are itching to travel again, and he may be right. Earlier this year, the European Travel Commission found that 54% of Europeans plan to travel before the end of July 2021, and that confidence in air travel was on the rise.

An Austrian Airlines Embraer E195 taking off. PC: Alberto Cucini/Airways

Fee-free Rebookings

Austrian Airlines has since been steadily adding vacation destinations to their list of services. It is concentrating on Greece and Cyprus.

“Our hopes are also on Italy, Spain, and Turkey,” Trestl added. “With our summer flight schedule, we are creating an attractive vacation offer for all Austrians.”

The Vienna-based carrier is also offering more flexibility to passengers with their fee-free rebooking service. If a ticket is issued by May 31, the rebooking fee will be waived.

Featured image: Austrian Airlines OE-LWF Embraer E195. Photo: Alberto Cucini/Airways