Monday, January 22, 2018

Air Serbia completes hybrid transition

Air Serbia will mark the completion to its hybrid transition this week as it unveils a new fare structure and announces the introduction of a buy on board scheme. The airline is set to publish three different fare types for economy class passengers (white, blue and red), the lowest of which will offer only carry-on luggage, while all other services, including meals, seat selection, checked-in bags and mileage accumulation will be available for a fee. The highest of the three economy fare types provide all of the standard features available to passengers under its existing pricing, including free meals, airport check-in and checked baggage free of charge. Complimentary services offered to business class travellers remain unchanged. The so-called unbundling of fares will reduce ticket prices for those seeking only the basic of services and marks the airline's departure from its full-fare legacy business model.

The Serbian carrier has previously said that the changes are necessary in order for it to remain competitive. "Traditional commercial approaches are no longer sufficient in making an airline competitive enough to ensure its long term profitability. Passenger numbers are booming, competition has intensified, and low cost carriers have made the aviation industry even more dynamic and tougher than ever before. But most importantly, with flights more affordable than ever, travellers are paying more attention to factors outside of price that differentiate airlines", the company said. Legacy airlines are increasingly indistinguishable from their low cost rivals in terms of the fares they charge and the service they offer with the cost gap between traditional and budget airlines falling considerably over the years, partly because legacy airlines have abandoned old differentiators like free baggage and in-flight catering on short haul flights.

Air Serbia has previously noted that the abovementioned transformation, will not result in it becoming a low cost airline. "Air Serbia is not transforming into a low cost company. Air Serbia serves and continues to serve primary global airports, such as JFK in New York, Heathrow in London, Charles de Gaulle in Paris and others. Low cost companies mostly use smaller alternative airports. Air Serbia also boasts a state-of-the-art Premium Lounge at Belgrade Airport, the best in the Balkans, which is not the case with low cost airlines. Air Serbia has its own frequent flyer programme - Air Serbia Etihad Guest - which now counts over 110.000 members. Low cost companies fly from A to B (point-to-point), while Air Serbia offers tickets to 42 destinations via its hub in Belgrade, as well as hundreds of other cities through its codeshare partners. Therefore, Air Serbia cannot in any way transform into a low cost company", the airline noted.

Wizz Air registers strong year in Pristina


Low cost carrier Wizz Air, which launched operations to Pristina in April 2017 from Budapest and London Luton, has recorded solid passenger numbers during its first year of operations to the Kosovan city. The budget airline handled 39.218 travellers on flights to and from Pristina, positioning itself as the eleventh busiest at the airport. It performed better than a number of other carriers which have long-established links to Pristina including Swiss International Air Lines, Norwegian Air Shuttle and Croatia Airlines. Wizz Air's Chief Commercial Officer, George Michalopoulos, previously said the carrier was "in continued discussions with Pristina Airport over new routes". You can review the airline's results for other markets in the former Yugoslavia here.

Austrian to wet-lease Adria jet


Austrian Airlines will wet-lease an Adria Airways Bombardier CRJ900 aircraft at the end of February. The jet is currently scheduled to serve on Austrian's behalf until early April and will be deployed on a number of routes, among which is Podgorica. The Slovenian carrier has wet-leased aircraft to its Austrian counterpart in the past. A wet-lease is a leasing arrangement whereby the lessor provides an aircraft, complete crew, maintenance and insurance to another airline. Adria's CEO, Arno Schuster, said recently, "Carriers value our flexibility and reliability, and know that we offer a good service to them. We are not just some unknown airline, we are a recognised carrier within Star Alliance. The wet-lease business helps us exploit our fleet better throughout the year". Adria is currently wet-leasing one of its Bombardier jets to Luxembourg's Luxair.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Croatia Airlines to expand network

Croatia Airlines plans to add new destinations and routes to its network this summer for a third year in a row. The carrier will put a greater emphasis on coastal operations and has announced the introduction of flights between Dubrovnik and Munich, as well as from Split to Copenhagen. "After several years of recession, the Croatian economy is recovering and the market requires new leisure destinations. This is why we expect that many travellers, both from Croatia and other markets, will use our products more", the company said. It added, "Croatia has been a tourist hit at a global level for several years, not only during the summer season but also in winter. In accordance with these trends and our capacities, in the future, we plan to further expand our European network of destinations and strengthen our position as a regional leader".

Seasonal services between Dubrovnik and Munich will commence on April 30 and run five times per week until mid-October with a mix of Airbus A319 and A320 aircraft. Both Lufthansa and Eurowings maintain flights between the two cities, however, the German national carrier will codeshare with its Croatian counterpart. Further service details can be found here. Flights between Split and Copenhagen will be maintained once per week, each Saturday, starting May 5 with a 174-seat Airbus A320 aircraft. It will compete directly against Norwegian Air Shuttle and SAS Scandinavian Airlines on the route. The Croatian carrier has been growing its operations to the Danish capital over the past few years by increasing frequencies from Zagreb during both the summer and winter months. Flight details for the new Split - Copenhagen service can be found here.

The carrier is also expected to announce new flights from Zagreb in the coming weeks. On the other hand, Croatia Airlines will discontinue its one weekly service between Rijeka and London Heathrow. The airline will wet-lease additional capacity this summer to cater for its growing network. However, the exact make-up of its fleet is yet to be fully finalised. In a recent statement to EX-YU Aviation News, the company said that it "hasn’t made a definitive decision in terms of wet-leasing aircraft for next summer season".

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Air Serbia shelves planned Geneva service

Air Serbia has postponed the launch of its two weekly Belgrade - Geneva service, which was scheduled to commence on March 25. The airline noted it would use the allocated Airbus A319 aircraft for charter operations instead. In a statement, the company said, "Air Serbia has transferred its capacities, originally intended for flights to Geneva, to charter operations. The decision was made due to increased market interest in the past for charter services. Since last year was a record for charter operations, the company has decided to supplement its capacities with an aircraft originally intended for transporting passengers and goods to Geneva".

The Serbian carrier is in need of extra capacity for its summer leisure operations as two Boeing 737-300 aircraft, operating under its dedicated charter brand Aviolet, are in the process of being retired, leaving only two other B737s for charter flights. Last year, the airline carried out the bulk of its leisure operations, accounting for over 600 flights, with three aircraft. "In deciding to postpone the start of services to Geneva, planned for March 25, the company was guided by the fact that it already operates flights to Zurich and that charter flights present, from a financial aspect, a lower investment risk and a more efficient use of resources", the carrier noted.

Air Serbia said it still plans to commence flights to the Swiss city in the future. "The start of services to Geneva, which will become Air Serbia’s second destination in Switzerland, is postponed for the time being. Information about the launch of operations will be provided in due course", the airline concluded. As a result, Belgrade Nikola Tesla Airport will no longer be linked to Geneva, as easyJet, which currently maintains the service, plans to switch its operations to Basel instead. The route was previously run by Swiss International Air Lines and Etihad Regional as well. Switzerland is the second largest air travel market from Serbia after Montenegro. The Serbian carrier plans to boost operations to Zurich this summer to seventeen weekly departures, up from fourteen per week last year. It mirrors Swiss' move to add an extra two weekly flights to Belgrade, for a total of sixteen, next summer. As a result, the two cities will be linked with 33 weekly flights by Air Serbia and Swiss during the high season.

Friday, January 19, 2018

Adria Airways to expand fleet

Adria Airways plans to add two Bombardier CRJ900 aircraft to its fleet, the "Uporabna Stran" portal reports. The aircraft are expected to commence operations on Adria's behalf during the first half of the year. Two CRJ900s, one previously operated by SAS Scandinavian Airlines, and the other by Iberia Regional (Air Nostrum), have been parked at Ljubljana Jože Pučnik Airport for some time and are likely to be destined for Adria. The aircraft are believed to be owned by Regional One, which acts as Adria's existing lessor. The Slovenian carrier has recently been advertising job openings for pilots and first officers on the aircraft type. The airline presently operates seven CRJ900s, three CRJ700s and three Airbus A319s. One of its CRJ700s is currently being wet-leased to Luxembourg's Luxair.

Adria plans to expand its operations this summer by introducing six new routes out of Ljubljana and boosting frequencies to seven destinations, including Copenhagen, Paris, Prague, Podgorica, Skopje, Tirana and Warsaw. Much of its planned growth has been based on the usage of Saab 2000 turboprop aircraft, operated by its subsidiary Adria Airways Switzerland (also known as Darwin Airline). However, the regional carrier declared bankruptcy last month, which is a subject of an ongoing probe by Swiss authorities. The aircraft have been grounded ever since with liquidators planning to sell them following interest from a leasing company. "Austrian Aviation" reported yesterday that Adria has invited former Darwin cabin crew to apply for jobs through Swiss-based aviation employment agency Growing.Aero, who will then be assigned onto Adria-operated flights from places such as Geneva, Milan and Trieste on the Saab 2000s. This is despite the fact that the airline does not maintain operations to any of the three cities, although will commence services to Geneva in March.

The Slovenian carrier has been steadily expanding its fleet over the years, adding its seventh CRJ900 in 2017. As a result, the airline has been able to venture into the lucrative ACMI (aircraft, crew, maintenance and insurance lease) business and has operated flights on behalf of Eurowings, Swiss International Air Lines and Austrian Airlines, to name a few. Adria recently extended the leasing terms of its existing fleet. Therefore, one of its Airbus A319 jets is now on lease until 2021, while the other two until 2024. Four of its CRJ900s will remain with the airline until at least 2022, while the other two are on lease until 2026 and 2027 respectively. Finally, the lease of three CRJ700s has been extended until December 2019.