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Vienna airport chief foresees consolidation of LCC presence

Vienna airport’s chief executive Julian Jager expects to see some consolidation in low-cost carrier operations next year as competition between various budget operators at the Austrian gateway intensifies.

Speaking to FlightGlobal at the World Routes conference in Guangzhou today, Jager says the Austrian capital's airport has welcomed the start of operations by budget carriers Wizz, Ryanair subsidiary Laudamotion and IAG’s low-cost operator Level this summer, while EasyJet has been growing "a lot" due to its expanded presence at Berlin. Eurowings has also expanded "very strongly" this year.

Jager, who is also the airport’s chief operating officer, says he does not expect all of these players to be "equally successful" in 2019 as they seek to compete in the same key "battlegrounds" in the Spanish, Italian and French markets.

However, he still expects the additional low-cost capacity being deployed to lead to "significant" passenger growth at Vienna in 2019, with the gateway forecasting a record 26 million passengers this year. That growth could even be above the Austrian airport’s previous guidance of a 6% rise in passenger numbers, he adds.

"Overall, we believe that we will have above-average growth in the remaining months of 2018 and into 2019," he states.

Jager says the airport has now regained all of the routes it had previously lost with the demise of Air Berlin and its Austrian subsidiary Niki.

Enhanced low-cost competition has also led to average air fares coming down "very significantly" on selected tourist routes, Jager notes.

Meanwhile, he says the airport is getting "closer and closer" to securing final regulatory approval to build a third runway, and the matter is currently being considered by Austria’s constitutional court. He states he is hopeful this "legal battle" can be resolved in the next six to 18 months.

The airport is to spend approximately €500 million ($581 million) on refurbishing its Terminal 2, modernising its non-Schengen Pier East facility and extending its Terminal 3 over the next four to five years. There will be a staggered opening of these facilities concluding around 2023.

Demand for services to East Asia is also rising, Jager says, with traffic growth of 34% so far this year, and 43% in August alone.

He states he is optimistic that the Austrian airport can secure at least two additional long-haul connections in 2019.

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