People’s Group: “Crisis comparable to the great depression of the 1930s”

CFO Thomas Mary in an interview.

The Austrian People’s Group is affected by the current aviation crisis in two ways. On the one hand, the People’s airline was unable to operate between Vienna and Altenrhein for several weeks; on the other hand, Switzerland prohibited all private and business flights at People’s Airport St. Gallen / Altenrhein. AviationNetOnline spoke to People’s Group CFO Thomas Mary about the impact of the current crisis on the company.

AviationNetOnline: Due to the Corona crisis, People’s had to close the connection between Vienna and St. Gallen / Altenrhein between March 16 and June 15. How did you experience the crisis and what impact did the lockdown have on the company’s employees?

Thomas Mary: We all have never experienced such a crisis, comparable to the great depression of the 1930s. Nobody would have thought at first that it would have such an impact. The worst case for aviation. Thanks to compensation for short-time work and a bridging loan (which all have to be paid back), we can get through the crisis, provided we can slowly start up again. We are excited to see possible grants to be granted to the AUA. We would have no understanding if such an ailing airline would be supported. The question arises whether the enormous sums that are being traded would not have been better invested in the thousands of SMEs.

Your Vienna connection is of particular importance for the Vorarlberg economy. Do you expect a corresponding demand as soon as the flights are available again?

We hope so very much, the response has been very positive so far. We’ll see how incoming bookings develop, but we’re very confident that we’ll be able to withdraw on June 15th if there is a demand.

With their partners Rhomberg Reisen & Highlife Reisen you offer charter flights from St. Gallen / Altenrhein to Italy, Spain and Croatia. Do you still expect demand this year?

Here too, the response from the tour operators is positive, they still have a good number of bookings for summer and autumn. We have to see how the relevant regulations in the travel countries are changing. By the way, we also offer flights to Greece.

People’s CFO Thomas Mary (photo: People’s).

What is your forecast for the rest of the year, how high will the passenger or revenue loss be compared to last year?

This is a look into the glass ball. We cannot estimate with certainty how the passengers behave. Are they flying again, are they postponing as long as possible or are they no longer flying (keyword video conference)? We can only make vague assumptions, but the loss will most likely be over 50 percent.

The Lufthansa Group is currently negotiating with the Austrian government about a € 767 million rescue package. Could it be that People’s as an Austrian airline will soon be applying for government aid?

That could be, but we still hope it won’t be necessary. We are certainly interested in grants if they can be granted.

In addition to the airline, the People’s Group also operates the People’s Airport in St. Gallen / Altenrhein. What effects does the corona virus have on the rest of flight operations?

Exactly the same, we had very little flight operations, which Bern (with very few exceptions) prohibited. Compare with Zurich, they had a drop of 99 percent, Vienna of 99.6 percent among the passengers.


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