Austrian’s primary contribution to the partnership was access to Eastern European and Middle Eastern passengers coming through the Austrian network, which was rescheduled to fit with the transatlantic service. Apparently the operation was profitable but traffic was not strong enough to see it continue beyond March 31, 1971 when the 707s rejoined the standard SABENA fleet.
Another attempt at long-haul services occurred in September 1973 when the ONA DC-8-63 N865F was leased as OE-IBO. This arrangement lasted until December 1974 although the aircraft appears to have mainly been used for cargo services to Hong Kong rather than passenger operations.
It would not be until 1989 that long haul routes would again be flown by Austrian’s own aircraft. By this time ETOPS was beginning to come into fashion and technology had progressed to the point that a relatively small twin engine aircraft could be developed. The two contenders were the Boeing 767-200ER and the Airbus A310-300, the latter finding favour with many of Europe’s smaller flag carriers, especially following the fall of the Berlin Wall and subsequent collapse of the Iron Curtain.
Austrian had actually been well ahead of the game ordering a pair of the shorter ranged A310-200 in May 1982 as well as taking two options. Deliveries were planned for 1986 and 1987 but in June 1986 Austrian switched to the new long range A310-300 series. The first A310-324ET, OE-LAA, arrived on December 16, 1988 three months after a third aircraft had been firmed up.
The new A310s were fitted with Pratt & Whitney PW4152 engines and seated 12 passengers in first class, 37 in business class and 123 in economy. This configuration allowed for the fitting of more comfortable 84cm wide seats. Initially the A310s operated on some higher density regional routes like Istanbul, Tel Aviv, Athens, Amsterdam and Paris (and they continued to service these routes on and off), however they had been acquired for long-haul routes.
With two of four eventual A310s in service Austrian could also add services to Kiev and Leningrad on March 31 plus Nairobi and Johannesburg on July 5. The third and fourth A310s joined the fleet on March 26, 1991 and March 9, 1992. The fourth aircraft was a PW4156A powered A310-325ET. The arrival of this aircraft allows the start of a 4 times weekly non-stop Vienna-Chicago service in co-operation with SAS.
The A310s in addition to flying scheduled routes could also be found operating for Austrians separate charter arm Austrian Air Transport, which although nominally independent used the mainline airline’s metal exclusively.
The A310s gave Austrian the confidence to build Vienna as a sustainable long haul hub using Austrian's strong presence in Eastern Europe to funnel passengers onto the Airbus widebodies. The natural next step was to upsize its Airbuses and that is exactly what Austrian did and we shall investigate in part 2.
I'm Richard Stretton: a fan of classic airliners and airlines who enjoys exploring their history through my collection of die-cast airliners. If you enjoy the site please donate whatever you can to help keep it running: