The A340s were split between two variants with first two being shorter A340-200s (OE-LAG/H) followed by a pair of longer A340-300s (OE-LAK-L). The series 200 was designed for long thin routes offering a substantial range increase over the original baseline series 300. The A340-212s arrived on March 5, 1995 but wore the classic Austrian livery only for a short period as the carrier reimagined its scheme during the year.
The A340s tookover from the A310s on the direct Johannesburg and New York routes whilst the Chicago service was ended on March 26. On the plus side A310s begin to fly between Vienna and Beijing in partnership with Air China, and also to Washington D.C via Geneva in a three-way block spacing agreement with Delta and Swissair. Both these new routes inaugurated at the end of March.
Austrian’s A340-300s would join in 1997 and 1999 but it would be the smaller A330-200 that would signal the end of the A310s. All four left the fleet in 2000 with two leased out to Air Plus Comet. In their place came 4 new A330-223s (OE-LAM-P). The A330s were ordered as part of a joint 9 firm and 19 optioned package by Swissair, Sabena and Austrian. All three were members of Swissair’s ill-fated Qualiflyer alliance so it made sense for them to align their fleets. Accordingly all the A330s would be powered by Pratt & Whitney PW4168 engines. All three airlines also used the A330-200 to replace A310s.
Austrian had been looking to sell them for some time and it was not surprising that they did not go on to have further airline careers. Both were leased by the French Air Force where OE-LAG has become F-RAJA. They are well suited as military transports or executive jets. Similarly the airline’s first A310, OE-LAA, has also had a military career since leaving the fleet. She was converted to an A310-324MRTT Tanker transport and operates with CASA.
The sale of the A340-200s was however only the start as Austrian transitioned to an all Boeing long haul fleet (the 767s and 777s had been fitted with a new Business class and lie-flat sleeper seats). It had been announced that the pair of A340-300s would be sold in early 2007 but Austrian surprised the industry somewhat by announcing in November 2006 that they would also sell all four A330s.
As Austrian said:
“During the preparation of the quarterly balance sheet, the results of the new traffic flow system clearly showed that the Austrian long-haul programme has come under increasing commercial pressure compared to the previous year, and that this trend has produced negative results, particularly on routes with a low proportion of direct traffic. The main reason for this is a low market and economic potential of individual routes from and to Austria, even when increased catchment areas are taken into consideration. For this reason, management now views a strategic and operational repositioning of the entire long-haul programme as an unavoidable focus for the restructuring of the Austrian Group.”
As well as the sale of the A330s many international destinations were stopped (such as Shanghai, Phuket, Mauritius, Colombo, Male, Kathmandu). Austrian was the last scheduled European airlines to operate to Melbourne but that didn't save it or the Sydney route which were both canned in March 2007. The Four A330s all joined TAP Air Portugal with whom they still serve whilst the pair of A340-313s joined Swiss International.
Despite this restructuring and further cost cutting measures, such as the removal of in-flight meals and alcohol on short haul flights, Austrian still struggled for profitability. This led to the announcement of the sale of the airline by the Austrian government to Lufthansa in November 2008. Despite investigations as to the validity of the process Lufthansa took ownership in September 2009. Even this was not the end of Austrian’s financial troubles but following much upheaval the Austrian national carrier appears to have recently finally turned a corner.
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: