Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Swiss to suspend Geneva - Belgrade flights

Swiss to terminate Geneva - Belgrade route at the end of summer

Swiss International Air Lines has confirmed it will suspend flights between Geneva and Belgrade, with the last service scheduled to operate on Saturday, October 24. The two weekly flights were launched in December 2013, but faced significant competition later on with both Etihad Regional and easyJet introducing the service in 2014. Etihad Regional was the first to give up on the route in October that same year. easyJet will continue to maintain flights between the two cities. Swiss has discontinued sales for the route but will maintain its presence in Belgrade with a total of nine weekly flights from Zurich currently scheduled to operate during the 2015/16 winter season.

The decision to suspend flights to Belgrade comes at a time when the carrier is significantly expanding its presence in the former Yugoslavia. Swiss is the latest in a string of foreign airlines which have announced service suspensions to the Serbian capital, with most of them facing direct competition from other carriers. On Friday, easyJet suspended its flights from Milan, following on from its Rome suspension at the start of the 2014/15 winter season. It competed directly against Alitalia and Air Serbia on both routes. Commenting on the suspension on Friday, easyJet said, “As we have a limited number of aircraft, we have to make decisions about the airports to which we fly”. In an earlier statement to EX-YU Aviation News, the airline said it has no plans to resume these services in the near future. Other carriers, such as Etihad Regional and TAP Portugal, discontinued their flights to the Serbian capital following brief stints, as a result of poor interest. Germanwings terminated services from Stuttgart to Belgrade in October, in face of increased competition from Air Serbia on the route. The airline had previously discontinued flights from Cologne to the Serbian capital in 2012. Germanwings will resume services between Stuttgart and Belgrade on July 30, albeit on a seasonal basis for just over a month - until September 10.

AirlineOriginLaunch dateSuspension dateCompetition
Adria AirwaysLjubljanaMAR 2 2010FEB 16 2014Air Serbia
APR 19 2013
MAR 31 2014
MAR 27 2015
OCT 25 2014
Air Serbia
Etihad RegionalGenevaMAY 1 2014OCT 23 2014Swiss / easyJet
GermanwingsStuttgartMAY 24 2007OCT 25 2014Air Serbia
TAP PortugalLisbonJUL 2 2014JAN 14 2015-
Wizz AirCharleroiMAR 29 2011MAY 6 2014-

On the other hand, Belgrade Airport has also seen the launch of a handful of new routes over the past year by Air Serbia, as well as the introduction of seasonal flights from Barcelona, operated by Vueling Airlines, and the start of scheduled, year-long, services from Hurghada by Air Cairo. Recently, Air Berlin applied for a permit to launch six weekly flights from Dusseldorf starting this May. However, in a statement to EX-YU Aviation News, the airline says it still considering whether to introduce the flights. “The decision for opening the new route is not final but we are in discussions about possible flights between Belgrade and Dusseldorf. We are currently reviewing all economic factors. As soon as we come to a conclusion, we will of course inform the public timely”, Air Berlin says. The airline currently codeshares on a total of fifteen routes operated by Air Serbia and is awaiting government approval for a further two.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Serbia to finalise US flight deal by year’s end

Government confident in 2016 start for Belgrade - US flights

Serbia and the United States are expected to finalise all necessary procedures by the end of the year in order for nonstop transatlantic flights to be launched from Belgrade in 2016, the Serbian Minister for Construction, Transport and Infrastructure, Zorana Mihajlović, said yesterday. The Serbian government approved a draft copy of a Bilateral Air Service Agreement with the States last Thursday. “We will sign the agreement in April. I have been authorised by the government to do so. Then 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”, Ms. Mihajlović said at a press conference.

Air Serbia has made it no secret that it intends to launch flights to the United States sometime over the next year. Although 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, 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. In October 2013, Delta Air Lines appealed to the DoT to reject a codeshare agreement between Air Serbia (then Jat Airways) and Etihad Airways on flights from Abu Dhabi to the US. At the time it said the two carriers had not been candid with the Department concerning Etihad’s ownership interest and effective control of Jat. It later filed a separate docket against the approval of codeshare flights between Air Berlin and Air Serbia on services from Germany to New York and Chicago. Etihad responded to these allegations by saying, “No US carrier, let alone Delta, directly serves the US-Serbia market, and no US carrier (save for Delta) opposed these applications. It is essential to note that even though US carrier interest in these applications may be limited, the interests of Serbia and Abu Dhabi are not”. Ultimately, the DoT rejected Etihad’s and Air Serbia’s codeshare from Abu Dhabi and did not rule on the Air Berlin - Air Serbia application.

Despite previous difficulties, the Serbian government is confident its national carrier is within reach of launching transatlantic flights. “What is important is that we have the opportunity to even consider flights [to the United States] because we have passed a significant number of inspections and checks together with the Directorate of Civil Aviation and I am very pleased that we have done so with high marks”, Ms. Mihajlović said. She concluded, “Now we have to undergo this second and final part and I expect that we will know by the end of the year when flights will commence. We will also make a decision on flight scheduling”.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Air Croatia and Sea Air prepare for launch

Air Croatia to inaugurate services on Thursday as Sea Air prepares for May 18 launch

Newcomers Air Croatia and Sea Air say they are ready to launch flights from Zagreb and Osijek, respectively, this summer season. Following several delays, Air Croatia, which is a Swedish, Cypriot and Israeli joint venture, will inaugurate services from Zagreb this Thursday. The company’s flights from the Croatian capital to Budapest, Prague, Rome and Milan, will be operated by Dutch-based Denim Air. “Denim Air has requested and received slots at all airports, including Zagreb, and there will be no more cancellations or delays for any flights in April or at any other later date”, Air Croatia’s Mehmet Akif Borucu says. An ATR 42 aircraft, which has the capacity to seat up to 52 passengers, will operate the planned services.

Denim Air, which is running the flights on behalf of Air Croatia, will launch operations on April 2. Originally, flights were to be inaugurated last summer, but were delayed until December before being pushed back to March and then again to April this year. At first the company planned to wet lease a ČSA Czech Airlines Airbus A319 and then an Estonian Air Embraer E170 jet, but only recently decided to switch to Denim Air instead. Air Croatia, based in the United Kingdom, has been selling tickets for its flights for several months. It faces no direct competition on any of its routes and will be the only one to offer nonstop flights between Zagreb and Rome. Croatia Airlines currently operates services to the Italian capital via Dubrovnik and Split, depending on the departure day.

Meanwhile, Osijek-based newcomer Sea Air is set to launch flights on May 18 to Frankfurt, Munich and Vienna. Tickets are to be put on sale next month. The airline plans to operate flights with a mix of Boeing B737-500 and MD 82 aircraft. “We at Sea Air are delighted to inform that we will commence regular scheduled air services from May 18 and operate to Munich, Frankfurt, and Vienna, utilizing Boeing 737-500 series aircraft and MD 82 aircraft. In addition to these city pairs, Sea Air will extend its operational network to include other European destinations in the second and third phases of its development”, the airline says. It adds, “Sea Air will operate as a low cost airline, however, this will not reflect on our service. Our passengers are our guests will be treated to an experience where safety and efficiency is our priority”. According to the airline, passengers will be served cold meals and beverages on all flights at no additional cost and will have the opportunity to check-in twenty kilograms of luggage free of charge. Osijek Airport, which handled almost 30.000 passengers last year, anticipates to welcome some 100.000 travellers in 2015 as a result of the new services.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Summer 2015 begins

More flights than ever before - the 2015 summer season begins

The 2015 summer season has begun today and will run until October 24 with the national carriers of the former Yugoslavia promising a busy several months ahead. In addition, low cost airline Wizz Air will be expanding its base in Skopje and opening a new hub in Tuzla.

Adria Airways will launch six new routes this summer season and grow its fleet by two aircraft – a leased Bombardier CRJ700 and an Airbus A320. The airline will kick off its expansion today with the introduction of flights from Lodz to Amsterdam and will inaugurate services from Tirana to Brussels and Paris on Tuesday. This summer, the Slovenian carrier will also launch flights from Ljubljana to Stockholm and Berlin and from Maribor to London Southend Airport. Air Serbia will operate an average of 724 weekly departures this summer season compared to 662 last year, offering an average of 81.000 seats per week, nearly 5.700 seats more than last summer season. In total, available seat kilometers (ASK) will increase by 9.3% to 2.3 billion. In a statement, the carrier’s CEO, Dane Kondić, said, “The highlights of our the new flight schedule are the increased frequencies to our key destinations, the five seasonal destinations that we are reintroducing this summer and Zagreb, which is in our summer schedule for the first time”.

Croatia Airlines will mark the start of the season today with the introduction of new seasonal flights from Rijeka to Munich. The airline will also introduce new summer-only flights from Dubrovnik to Nice and from Split to Skopje. The 2015 summer season marks Croatia Airlines’ last under the current restructuring program, which has forced the carrier to limit its expansion and rationalise operations. European Coastal Airlines (ECA), Europe’s first modern scheduled and commercial seaplane service, will launch new flights from Novalja, a town on the island of Pag, on Croatia’s central coast from June 1. ECA estimates it will handle some 221.000 passengers this year, 16% of which are expected to be Germans.

Montenegro Airlines will boost frequencies across its network and introduce new seasonal services from Podgorica to Lyon and from Tivat to Vienna and St. Petersburg. The boost comes as a result of an additional two aircraft in its fleet. Last year, a brand new Embraer E190LR jet entered service for the carrier in June. Meanwhile, a grounded Fokker will be put back into operation following an overhaul. The airline will also operate a total of sixty summer charters to Germany, to cities such as Berlin, Hannover, Leipzig, Stuttgart and Nuremberg. B&H Airlines, which has been facing financial turmoil, will, for now, maintain only four weekly flights from Sarajevo to Zurich via Banja Luka. Service suspensions to Copenhagen and Belgrade have been extended until further notice.

Wizz Air will be headlining the growth at Skopje Alexander the Great Airport for a second consecutive year, with the budget carrier to base a third aircraft in the Macedonian capital in late June and introduce five new routes, including Friedrischshafen, Sandefjord, Barcelona, Lubeck and Nuremberg. Furthermore, the no frills airline will boost frequencies across its network out of Skopje. It will introduce an additional weekly flight to Hahn, Cologne, Bergamo, Gothenburg and Beauvais, and a further two weekly services will be added to Malmo, which will now operate on a daily basis. Wizz will also introduce flights from Ohrid to London Luton and Basel this summer as well. The no frills carrier will base an Airbus A320 in Tuzla from June 2015, making the airport its nineteenth base and its third in the former Yugoslavia, following Belgrade and Skopje. The move will provide Tuzla with new flights to Frankfurt Hahn and Sandefjord, which are to launch on June 24, as well as to Memmingen and Stockholm Skavsta commencing June 26. With these new services, the budget airline will offer a total of nine destinations to five countries from Bosnia and Herzegovina’s third largest city this summer. It already operates flights to Tuzla from Malmo, Basel, Dortmund, Gothenburg and Eindhoven.

Other developments this summer include Swiss International Airlines’ major expansion into the former Yugoslavia which begins today with the introduction of daily flights from Zurich to Ljubljana. In addition, it will introduce flights from Zurich to Zagreb (daily) and Sarajevo (three per week), as well as two weekly services from Geneva to Skopje and Sarajevo and seasonal flights from Zurich to Podgorica, which will be operated through its subsidiary Edelweiss Air. Pristina Airport will see new charter flights to Bergamo operated by Germania this summer while Niš Constantine Airport will welcome Wizz Air with new services from Malmo and Basel. Several Croatian-based airlines, such as Limitless Airways, Sea Air and Air Croatia, whose flights will be operated by Denim Air, are expected to launch this summer with airports in Dubrovnik, Split and Rijeka eyeing a record season.