Vienna International Airport (VIE) handled 27 million passengers for the first time last year, riding a wave of traffic growth that looks set to see it surpass 30 million passengers in 2019.
Julian Jäger, joint CEO and COO of Vienna Airport, said a major challenge against the backdrop of such rapid passenger growth would be to maintain a high level of travel quality, especially in terms of punctuality.
“Although we can only impact this to a limited extent, we are constantly working with airlines and handling agents to optimise processes as a means of already making up for lost time during the peak morning periods,” said Jäger.
The airport is known for having a high quality of service, having received the “Best Airport Staff in Europe” accolade at the Skytrax World Airport Awards 2019 for the fourth time in five years, and is also one of only a handful of European airports to be certified with the 4-Star Airport Rating by the review and ranking consultancy.
“Fair competition is quite a healthy thing,” said Jäger. “Keeping markets alive artificially and on the basis of public sector intervention distorts competition and must be rejected.
“Vienna Airport positions itself against competitive flight hubs thanks to a fair, transparent and non-discriminatory incentive programme designed to increase the number of frequencies or routes and to strengthen the hub function by airlines.”
The incentive scheme, discounts on airline airport charges introduced recently by Vienna, has seen an increase in low-cost carrier (LCC) activity at the airport, a trend that Jäger sees increasing.
“At Vienna Airport we recognize strong growth in the long haul and low-cost trend segment,” said the Vienna Airport CEO.
“We anticipate an increase of low-cost flight connections to comprise up to a 30 per cent overall share. An increasing number of airlines are incorporating low-cost or premium-economy offers to respond to the growing demand for more attractively priced offers.”
LCC activity is not the only area VIE is experiencing growth, with the airport also experiencing an upsurge in long-haul flight traffic. This expanded by 24% in 2018 alone and new carriers launching flight operations from Vienna Airport this year include ANA, Air Canada and China Southern Airlines.
Further global trends which VIE have identified and are now implementing in their own hub include automation and digitalisation, both areas the aviation industry has been slow to pick up on in comparison to other sectors.
“From a global perspective, the automation of different service processes is becoming perceptible, such as self-service check-in or baggage drop-off counters and more services,” said Jäger. “Digitalisation is also shaping developments, for example automated procedures in passport control which we have already initiated as well as security checks.”
As part of a wider modernisation drive, Vienna Airport is also planning to adapt the Terminal 2 and East Pier sections of its operation, bring them into line with contemporary standards.
“Terminal 3 will also be extended, adding 20,000 m² of space for new lounges, shops and a spacious security checkpoint for a relaxed departure at Vienna Airport,” said Jäger. “The third runway is [also] in the makings as a long-term construction project.”
Plans for the third runway were approved for construction by the Supreme Administrative Court in Austria in March 2019, surviving appeals made by local residents and environmental groups after initially gaining authorisation in March last year.
At the present we are managing with existing capacities up to approximately 35-40 million passengers,” said Jäger. “After that more runway capacity will be necessary. At present VIE has two intersecting runways which mean a 1.5 runway capacity in reality.
“In the future, a third runway would run parallel to one of the existing runways and create new arrival and departure capacities at Vienna Airport. According to current estimates, the [third runway] project could be put into operation in the year 2030.”
The final decision on the third runway was surely welcome news for VIE, which has a reputation for efficient airport management – its minimum connecting time of 25 minutes is one of the fastest in Europe. How much of this has to do with collaboration between the various parts – ground handling, airlines and airport – of the aviation chain?
“At Vienna Airport the collaboration of all these areas works very well,” said Jäger. “We offer passenger and aircraft handling as well as security checks on our own. As a result, we are capable of working very efficiently and in a closely-knit manner.
“On balance, it would be good for the aviation sector to work more intensively together and pull in the same direction when it comes to reliable operational procedures, for example in order to substantially reduce delays.”