Austrian Airlines has announced it will be replacing one of its regular flight segments with a frequent train service, in order to meet part of its environmental criteria, as stipulated in its €600 million government bailout.
The airline will no longer fly between Austrian capital Vienna and popular tourist destination Salzburg, instead facilitating direct train services on the Austrian AIRail, a modern train service facilitated in partnership between the flagship carrier and the country’s national rail operator, ÖOB.
From 20 July, up to 31 direct train services will take place between Vienna International Airport and Salzburg’s central station, a drastic increase in frequency from the previous rail connection between the cities, which ran just three times per day.
Trains will depart every hour, between the hours of 5am and 8:30pm.
Previous to this, passengers had the choice of taking a 45-minute flight between the cities, which operated twice per day, or one of the three rail services per day, which take 2 hours and 45 minutes.
According to the airline, when accounting for the time it takes to check-in, tag bags, go through airport security, board and unboard the plane, the travel time is likely to be largely the same, and far more environmentally friendly.
“Vienna Airport can be reached by train from Salzburg in well under three hours and without changing trains,” CEO Alexis von Hoensbroech said in a statement.
“This is why our AIRail offer is a good and more environmentally friendly alternative to flying.”
According to Austrian Airlines, passengers will have the same rights to compensation, refunds and rebookings as they would on their flights.
For example, if a connecting train or plane is missed due to delays in the rail system, customers will be automatically rebooked on an alternative travel connection, according to the carrier.
“We are confident that we will be able to welcome many Austrian Airlines guests on AIRail from Salzburg in the future, who will then transfer to long-haul and eastern European flights in Vienna,” von Hoensbroech added.
The announcement comes following the airline’s recent acceptance of a €600 million government aid package, in order to navigate the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The agreement between the Austrian government and the flagship carrier stipulates that the carrier must cut its domestic emissions by 50 per cent by 2050, necessitating the use of such rail connections in lieu of short domestic flights.
Meanwhile, the concept of replacing short-haul flights with direct train services has been taking hold in various regions around Europe, with both KLM and Lufthansa securing similar partnerships with local rail corporations to substitute expensive planes for efficient trains.