Saturday, 30 May 2020

Austrian Airlines....the way back to flight.....but how safe is flying?

Austrian Airlines to Resume Flight Operations on 15 June
Photo Austrian Airlines/Markus Setznagel

After a grounding lasting almost 90 days, Austrian Airlines is getting ready to get its aircraft back into the skies.  The company, part of the pan European Lufthansa Group, has set the date of 15th June to begin scheduled operations again, albeit with a limited timetable. 

Included in the first wave of reintroduced flights, will be services to London, Paris, Amsterdam, Berlin and Brussels all from its home base of Vienna. A full list of destinations being offered by the carrier is shown below,  along with more routes Austrian will operate from the week after as it slowly builds up schedules. 

In the initial phase, due to the low estimated demand, the airline will primarily deploy the smaller aircraft in its fleet, such as Embraer 195 and Bombardier Dash 8. “We all are pleased that Austrian Airlines is finally flying again. I would like to thank our customers for their patience and understanding. And of course, I would like to thank our employees who stood firm in their commitment to our Austrian Airlines during these last few months”, says CCO Andreas Otto. “We will also resume long-haul flight service as soon as we have sufficient feeder traffic on short- and medium-haul routes. This could already be the case in July”, he added.

But, How safe is flying? How clean are Austrian Airlines aircraft? And how do you best protect yourself?

Hygiene and safety have played an important role at Austrian Airlines not just since COVID-19, but also throughout its history.  Yet, since the crisis hit, But since the crisis that has decimated the travel and airline industries first hit, hygiene and safety have been the two key topics on everyone's minds, with the majority asking - How safe is flying? How hygienic and clean are commercial aircraft? 

Photo Austrian Airlines
For Austrian Airlines, the passenger journey starts (or ends) at Vienna Airport.

As soon as you arrive at Vienna International Airport, you will notice that numerous measures have been taken to provide you with the highest possible security. Along all passenger routes, from the check-in area to the baggage reclaim hall, you will find hand disinfectant/sanitizer dispensers and floor markings to ensure the necessary minimum social distance. On top of that, this is supported by sensory monitoring and passenger density control.

All passengers are also required to permanently wear a face mask in the passenger areas of the airport and the plexiglass sneeze guards at the workstations also ensure the safety of both passengers and staff.

Currently, health checks are being conducted when arriving at the airport and you can also get yourself tested within approximately three hours for COVID-19 using a PCR test. 

Vending machines and screens are regularly cleaned and disinfected. Of course, to protect yourself and others further, you can check-in online, thereby cutting out a lot of person to person contact. Austrian Airlines also have quick boarding gates also allow you to board the plane without any contact - a scanner reads the boarding pass, thus eliminating the need for personal contact to an employee. Boarding by groups, i.e. the simultaneous boarding of small groups can also contribute to additional protection in the future.

How clean and safe is an Austrian Airlines aircraft?

After checking-in and passing through the airport, the next most important is the cleanliness of the aircraft, Austrian Airlines aircraft are, unlike low-cost rivals, disinfected and thoroughly cleaned before and after each flight. In addition to common cleaning tasks, such as cleaning the floor or baggage racks, all tables are not only cleaned superficially but from the table surface down to the smallest opening and closing mechanism. The seats, armrests, touch screens, safety belts and fasteners are also given a deep cleaning and disinfection.

For many a source of danger is the lavatory, yet Austrian has got this covered, both the toilet itself and the toilet door handles, inside and outside, are regularly disinfected and cleaned.

The air in the air!
In addition to the cleaning process, the air in the air is really important, all Austrian Airlines aircraft are equipped with highly efficient filters that effectively filter out more than 99.99% of dust, bacteria and germs in the air. These are similar to the air filtration systems used in hospital operating theatres. On top of this, the cabin air is vertically and continuously circulated and constantly refreshed.

Austrian have given flight attendants training for travelling in pandemic times, they receive appropriate work instructions and carry out the service with appropriate safety measures in place. In general, keeping as much distance as possible applies to the entire crew.

 How do you best protect yourself?

The best way to protect yourself when travelling is pretty basic, simply observing common sense guidelines of washing your hands regularly for a bare minimum of 20 seconds, keeping to social distance rules, ideally 2 metres. Keeping hands off surfaces as much as possible, not touching your face and sneezing and coughing in your elbows and washing your hands after. Onboard an aircraft, the same rules apply and you should try as much as possible to avoid contact and close proximity to other people, make use of sanitising wipes where available and avoid queuing for the loo! 

For safety reasons, Austrian, like most other airlines, have introduced a mandatory requirement for passengers to wear a face mask during the flights, at the airport and recommends the wearing a full face mask when travelling to the airport as well.

Arriving in Austria
Passengers travelling to Austria must, in accordance with current official regulations, present a medical certificate which confirms a negative Covid-19 test result (PCR test, must not be older than 4 days) or enter a 14-day quarantine.

Arriving passengers with residence in Austria and a valid residence permit, who cannot present a corresponding medical certificate, have the possibility to get tested at Vienna Airport.
If the result is negative, the quarantine can be terminated.

Austrians can find the current entry restrictions here, whereas the global website for entry restrictions and safety measures can be found here.

From June, 15 Austrian Airlines flight schedule includes the following destinations:
Direct flights from Vienna from June, 15
Amsterdam (AMS)
Stockholm (ARN)
Athens (ATH)
Brussels (BRU)
Basel (BSL)
Paris (CDG)
Copenhagen (CPH)
Dubrovnik (DBV)
Dusseldorf (DUS)
Frankfurt (FRA)
Geneva (GVA)
Hamburg (HAM)
Larnaca (LCA)
London (LHR)
Munich (MUC)
Bucharest (OTP)
Pristina (PRN)
Sarajevo (SJJ)
Thessaloniki (SKG)
Skopje (SKP)
Sofia (SOF)
Stuttgart (STR)
Tirana (TIA)
Tel Aviv (TLV)
Berlin (TXL)
Varna (VAR)
Zurich (ZRH)

Additional direct flights from Vienna from June, 22
Belgrade (BEG)
Graz (GRZ)
Innsbruck (INN)
Kyiv (KBP)
Kosice (KSC)
Milan (MXP)
Nice (NCE)
Prague (PRG)
Split (SPU)
Warsaw (WAW)

Photo Austrian Airlines/Florian Schmidt

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