Thursday, July 30, 2015

Turkish Airlines rules out new EX-YU routes

Turkish will focus on adding frequencies over new routes in EX-YU

Turkish Airlines has ruled out the possibility of introducing new routes in the former Yugoslavia, but will focus on adding extra frequencies on existing services instead. Speaking to EX-YU Aviation News, Turkish Airlines’ Media Relations Officer, Serhan Yucel, said the airline has good coverage in the region, “Currently there are no plans to add new routes, but maybe in the future. Furthermore, increasing frequencies to points in the former Yugoslavia is being evaluated. The former Yugoslav market is important for Turkish Airlines, making a contribution to the airline’s global network”. Turkish Airlines has been rapidly expanding its operations across the former Yugoslavia in recent years. It currently operates two daily flights to Belgrade, Pristina, Skopje and Zagreb, ten weekly services to Ljubljana and Podgorica and up to eighteen weekly flights to Sarajevo.

In the spring of 2014, Turkish Airlines planned to add Dubrovnik to its route network with three weekly flights, however, despite guarantees from the Mayor of Dubrovnik and the Turkish Foreign Minister, the service did not materialise. “Turkish Airlines always gives crucial importance to the former Yugoslav market, considering its contribution to our global network. The mentioned routes have great potential and feed Turkish’s European points, as well as points in the United States” Mr Yucel said. Over the past year, Turkish Airlines has become the carrier of choice for many in the former Yugoslavia. In 2014, Turkish was the second busiest carrier flying out of Skopje and the third busiest in Pristina. So far in 2015, the Turkish carrier has positioned itself as the second busiest airline operating out of Ljubljana and the fourth busiest in Belgrade, despite a 12% decline in the number of operated flights.

Discussing potential takeovers in the region, Mr Yucel neither confirmed nor denied Turkish’s interest in other carriers at a time when Adria Airways, Croatia Airlines and Montenegro Airlines are all up for privatisation. “Major decisions such as joint ventures or acquisitions require a board decision and we also inform the Stock Exchange to inform our shareholders”. However, Mehmet Baspinar, Turkish Airlines’ Vice President for Marketing and Sales in Eastern Europe and the Balkans says strict European Union laws and regulations, which are enforced across the region, forbid the Turkish carrier from becoming a majority shareholder. As a result, it cannot effectively enforce its strategy, as was the case at B&H Airlines.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

US to undertake Serbia evaluation in September

US authorities to perform transatlantic flight checks in Serbia

Aviation authorities from the United States will perform their final checks on Serbia’s readiness to handle transatlantic flights this September. According to the “Večernje Novosti” daily, a high ranking delegation from the States is set to visit Serbia in just over a month’s time to evaluate Belgrade Nikola Tesla Airport as the point of origin for future long haul flights. Reportedly, American authorities are concerned over a security oversight last October when a large quantity of weapons, which were intended for export, went missing at Belgrade Airport’s warehouse. The issue will be raised during the September visit. Serbia’s Minister for Construction, Transport and Infrastructure, Zorana Mihajlović, previously said, “We have to go through certain procedures and I expect for us to have an agreement for flights to the US by the end of the year, in particular to New York. We will discuss other destinations as well with Air Serbia”.

The United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) upgraded Serbia to a category one status last year, allowing airlines registered in the country to operate flights to the US. However, the FAA's foreign assessment program focuses on a country's ability, not the individual air carrier, to adhere to international standards. The US Department of Transport (DoT) makes a final decision whether to issue permits to airlines on a case-by-case basis. Both Air Serbia and its part-owner Etihad, have maintained that flights to the United States could be launched if the numbers stack up and services prove viable. However, none have given firm time frames for the launch. On the other hand, the Serbian government has previously said that transatlantic services will be inaugurated either at the end of 2015 or during the first quarter of 2016.

Jat Airways’ last CEO, prior to the airline’s part-takeover by Etihad Airways, Velibor Vukašinović, says services to the US will be launched in 2016. “Air Serbia will most likely launch flights to New York or Chicago at the start of 2016”, Mr Vukašinović noted. Belgrade Airport says it is ready to welcome both wide body aircraft and additional passengers. “With the planned development in infrastructure, the airport will be ready for the announced long haul flights and will have the ability to handle an even greater number of transfer passengers”, the acting CEO of Belgrade Nikola Tesla Airport, Saša Vlaisavljević, said. The last time Serbia was linked with the US was in 2004 when Uzbekistan Airways operated flights from Belgrade to New York for a short period of time.

Last September, the President and CEO of Etihad Airways and Vice Chairman of Air Serbia, James Hogan, gave more detail on the potential flights. “Of course, it is planned for Air Serbia to enter the US market. For that to happen all conditions must be met and numbers must stack up. Once flights begin, the Airbus A330 will be used. Etihad has the type in its fleet and it can be transferred to Air Serbia. It’s important for the numbers to stack up and for us to choose the right moment and be ready. Regardless of whether flights launch in 2015 or 2016, we have to set off all that is necessary on the US market, such as tour operators and public relations, because it is important to distinguish the company apart from the former Jat”, Mr Hogan said. He added, “We are not aiming for our guests to be only Serbs visiting relatives and friends in their homeland but also others such as tourists and businesspeople who will fly with Air Serbia”.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Croatia Airlines handles millionth passenger

Croatia Airlines’ passenger numbers unchanged on last year

Croatia Airlines yesterday handled its millionth passenger for the year, one day ahead of 2014, positioning itself as the second busiest carrier in the former Yugoslavia. Mario Popović was the lucky millionth passenger, travelling from Amsterdam to Zagreb. To mark the occasion, Mr Popović (pictured above) was awarded two return economy class tickets to any destination in Croatia Airlines’ international network. During the first seven months of the year, the Croatian carrier handled 1% more passengers compared to the same period in 2014. The airline anticipates welcoming 1.88 million travellers on board its aircraft by the end of the year, which would represent growth of 2 - 3% on 2014.

The figures achieved so far this year are significantly lower to estimates made by the Croatian State Management Office (DUUDI), which published its 2015 outlook for the Croatian carrier late last year. In its report DUUDI expects for the airline to welcome 1.987.231 passengers in 2015, of which 1.908.644 should come from scheduled services and the other 78.587 travellers on charter flights. In addition, the State Management Office forecast an average cabin load factor of 72.4% in 2015. Since launching operations in 1991, Croatia Airlines has flown 30.8 million passengers, of which 21.2 million on international flights, and the other 9.6 million on domestic services.

Meanwhile, Air Canada has concluded a unilateral codeshare partnership agreement with Croatia Airlines, which came into effect last Saturday. As a result, the Canadian carrier and fellow Star Alliance member has placed its “AC” designator code and flight numbers onto Croatia Airlines’ services from Zagreb to Amsterdam, Brussels, Copenhagen, London Heathrow, Paris and Zurich (and vice versa). Furthermore, Air Canada codes will now appear on the Croatian carrier’s flights from Dubrovnik to Paris and Rome and from Split to London, Paris, Rome and Zurich. The new agreement is the latest in a number of high profile codeshare partnerships Croatia Airlines has made over the past few months, which have included deals with Singapore Airlines and LOT Polish Airlines.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Hainan Airlines rules out Zadar launch

Planned Chongqing – Zadar flights unlikely to materialise

Hainan Airlines, China’s largest privately owned carrier and the country’s fourth largest, has ruled out flights from Chongqing, in China’s south-west, to Zadar, which were initially to be launched on May 1 but were then delayed until September. In a statement to EX-YU Aviation News, a Hainan Airlines spokesperson said the carrier had no knowledge of any future services to Zadar. In April, Zadar Airport’s Managing Director, Irena Ćosić, said that one weekly charter flights, operated each Friday from Chongqing to Zadar, would most likely be introduced in September, after plans to launch the route in May were cancelled. “We are not giving up on our cooperation with the Chinese. We will continue to lobby hard on the Chinese market”, Ms Ćosić said at the time.

Hainan Airlines is concerned that the proposed route would not generate enough interest. The head of the Chinese Southeast Europe Business Association (CSEBA), Mario Rendulić, who initiated talks between Zadar Airport and the Chinese, previously said that Zadar is still relatively unknown and undiscovered by Chinese tourists. “We are still just a dot and we are working on changing that. We still don’t have any brands that could attract Chinese tourists”, Mr Rendulić noted. In recent years, Croatia has seen a surge in travellers from China, with a little over 60.000 visiting last year. Ms Ćosić believes Hainan Airlines could carry some 25.000 passengers during its first year and could eventually introduce scheduled two-weekly flights between the two cities.

Hainan Airlines’ arrival at Zadar Airport would have been a much welcomed addition during the slow winter months when Croatia Airlines is the airport’s sole customer, maintaining flights only to Zagreb and Pula. Furthermore, the airport was hoping to compensate for the loss of several Ryanair routes this summer with this new service. In addition, the bulk of Scandinavian tourists traveling with tour operator Scandjet have been rerouted to Rijeka this summer instead. Despite these setbacks, the airport’s passenger numbers have held up well. During the first five months it registered a 14% increase in passenger numbers. However, in June and July figures slipped slightly. The airport expects to end the year with similar numbers as in 2014. Zadar Airport recently entered talks with Air Serbia over potential flights from Belgrade next summer season.