Austrian to follow Lufthansa move to slimline seats

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Austrian Airlines is to follow parent company Lufthansa's strategy of adopting a new cabin configuration, with lighter seats, to increase capacity.

Executive board member Andreas Bierwirth says the airline will change its seating over the winter season, for the beginning of the summer 2011 schedule, "in line with Lufthansa".

"With this we'll get a cost-saving effect on unit costs," he states.

A spokesman for Austrian says that the carrier will introduce new seats on its European continental fleet.

"The most important thing is that passenger comfort will stay the same, but there will be more seats," he says. "The leg-room will still be the same as before."

Austrian has been restructuring its European operation as part of a turnaround programme to achieve profitability.

Speaking recently to Lufthansa Group investors, Bierwirth said part of the carrier's problem had been its strategy of chasing yield, notably in the face of competition from low-cost airlines such as Austria's Niki.

"We tried to keep the yield up," he says, stating that the airline would keep reducing aircraft size in order to adjust to the declining numbers of passengers willing to pay higher fares.

"In the end [we were] operating the smallest aircraft on the highest-volume markets."

Under its new network strategy, Austrian has opted for larger aircraft, phasing out regional jets in favour of Boeing 737s from its charter business. If Austrian operates a service within 90min of a budget carrier on the same route, says Bierwirth, it will ensure that its own flight is conducted at least with Airbus A320s or 737s.

Austrian's next phase of network redesign will come into effect at the end of October this year, when it introduces changes to allow another 'wave' of connecting flights from its Vienna hub - raising the total from six to seven.

This redesign will provide an extra 300 possible connections weekly, says the airline, and provide room to expand the flight schedule in 2011.