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Thursday, Oct 01, 2020

Struggling Austrian Airlines swaps planes for trains

Austria's flagship airline is replacing one of its flights with a more frequent train service, in order to meet the environmental criteria of its recent government bailout.
The company will no longer fly between capital city Vienna and Salzburg, operating a rail service instead.

As part of its recent €600 million ($680m) government aid package, the airline is required to cut its domestic emissions by 50% by 2050 and to end flights where there is a direct train connection to the airport that takes "considerably less than three hours."
From July 20, there will be up to 31 direct train services a day between the Vienna International Airport and Salzburg's central station, up from three rail connections per day, the airline said.

"Vienna Airport can be reached by train from Salzburg in well under three hours and without changing trains," said airline CEO Alexis von Hoensbroech in a statement. "This is why our AIRail offer is a good and more environmentally friendly alternative to flying."

"AIRail" is a terrestrial service in partnership with the country's national rail operator ÖOB.

Vienna and Salzburg sit 184 miles apart and a flight between them took just 45 minutes. But when accounting for time spent in each airport, the total traveling time would often be longer than the 2 hour and 49 minute train journey.

Passengers will retain their rights to compensation, refunds and rerouting. If a connecting train or plane is missed due to delays, customers will be automatically rebooked on an alternative travel connection, the company said.

The rail service was trialed in 2019 while Salzburg airport was closed for a month for runway renovations and was well received, the company said.

The coronavirus pandemic has crippled much of the airline industry and left several carriers seeking government bailout money.
But a trend away from unnecessarily short air journeys was underway before the outbreak, which some companies had already sought to exploit.

Last year, KLM partnered with Dutch and Belgian rail companies to replace one Amsterdam-Brussels flight per day with a train service, similar to Austrian Airlines' deal with ÖOB. In Germany, Lufthansa has a collaboration with train network, Deutsche Bahn.

Aviation accounts for at least 2% of global carbon dioxide emissions, and aircraft movement was expected to grow at least 1.9% annually over the next 20 years, according to the Airports Council International.
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