Monday, February 8, 2016

Croatia Airlines to wet lease regional jet

Croatia Airlines to add 100-seat aircraft, type still being negotiated

Croatia Airlines has confirmed it will wet lease regional 100-seat aircraft but says a final decision on the type is yet to be made. This is despite an Embraer E195 jet being tentatively scheduled on select routes on select days from Zagreb, to destinations such as Brussels, Copenhagen and Split, starting May 20. In a statement to EX-YU Aviation News, the carrier said, "Negotiations regarding the completion of the process of introducing 100-seat aircraft in Croatia Airlines’ fleet, according to the wet lease principle, are still in progress". It adds, "Given that the negotiations are conducted with several potential business partners, the final decision on the type of aircraft has not been made yet". A 100-seat aircraft would be best suited for the airline as it can operate with greater cost efficiency during the slow winter months and open up new markets during the summer.

Through a wet lease arrangement, the lessor provides an aircraft, crew and maintenance to the lessee. Croatia Airlines has never operated Embraer jets in its almost 27-year history and would make it the third aircraft type in its fleet, alongside Airbus and Bombardier. Last summer the carrier concluded short-term wet leases of Montenegro Airlines’ E190 jets in order to ease its fleet shortage problems, since several of its aircraft were undergoing maintenance. However, it is believed the arrangement was also made in order for the airline to study the aircraft’s performance. Montenegro Airlines is the former Yugoslavia’s only Embraer operator, with both the E190 and E195 versions in its fleet. A wet lease usually lasts between 1 to 24 months.

Croatia Airlines' CEO, Krešimir Kučko, previously said he is in favour of the Brazilian manufactured aircraft. “If Croatia Airlines was to buy more aircraft today it would choose an Embraer model”, he said. In its response to EX-YU Aviation News the carrier did not specify whether it will lease one or more regional aircraft, however, last year, Mr Kučko noted the airline plans to operate two 100-seat jets in 2016 with an additional two to four to join in the coming years. The addition of new aircraft will be followed by the introduction of new destinations. This May, the carrier plans to launch flights from Zagreb to Milan and a seasonal service from Pula to Zurich in July. Additional new routes from the Croatian capital are expected to be announced in the coming weeks. Croatia Airlines currently counts twelve aircraft in its fleet - six Bombardier Dash 8s, four Airbus A319s and two A320s. It has a further four A320neos on order, for delivery from 2021.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Serbia and Kosovo accelerate flight plans

Serbia and Kosovo discuss Belgrade - Pristina service and routing

Serbia and Kosovo have agreed to accelerate plans to establish flights between Belgrade and Pristina. At last week's high-level EU-moderated reconciliation talks in Brussels, the two sides discussed ways in which to avoid drawn-out bureaucratic procedures and unresolved airspace issues which could delay the service launch. Since Serbia and Kosovo have not regulated portions of their airspace which border each other, the Serbian delegation has suggested for Air Serbia's aircraft departing Belgrade to fly into Macedonia before turning north-west towards Pristina, and thus avoid direct entry from Serbia. The routing would add an additional fifteen minutes to the journey. Kosovo's Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs, Petrit Selimi said, "During our next round of talks, it is very important that we find the best and most affordable way to travel by plane between Belgrade and Pristina, but that surely isn't via Macedonia". He added, "Airports across the Balkans are very interested in handling passengers from Kosovo. I believe Skopje and Tirana, but especially Belgrade want a slice of the cake".

Late last year, the Serbian Prime Minister, Aleksandar Vučić, spoke of the importance of resuming services between Pristina and Belgrade in order for travellers to transfer onto Air Serbia's planned flights to New York. He added that Air Serbia hopes to tap into the large "Albanian diaspora living in New York". "We want our national airline to land at Pristina Airport", he said. New York City was Pristina Airport's busiest unsereved route during 2015. Some 13.000 travellers flew from Pristina to JFK and Newark Liberty airports last year. Of those, 10.000 were headed for JFK Airport to which Air Serbia intends to launch flights this June. Other routes in North America which saw a notable number of passengers departing Pristina included Chicago, Washington and Toronto.

Due to the difficult and sensitive past shared by the two sides, it has been suggested for Air Serbia to initially run flights to Pristina with its Aviolet branded aircraft, so as to avoid Serbian signage and branding at Pristina Airport for the time being, though the Kosovan side has not requested for such measures. If all goes to plan, flights between Belgrade and Pristina could launch at the start of the 2016/17 winter season. Meanwhile, Pristina Airport saw its busiest January on record. It welcomed 120.531 passengers, an increase 12.8% compared to the same month last year. Furthermore, it registered 1.019 aircraft movements, up 10.4% on January 2015.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Zagreb Airport sees busiest January on record

Zagreb Airport starts strong in 2016

Croatia's busiest airport kicked off 2016 on a high by posting its 23rd month of consecutive passenger growth. Zagreb Airport welcomed 156.947 travellers in January, an increase of 4.2% compared to the same month last year. As a result, the airport registered its busiest start to the year since opening its doors to the public 54 years ago, following on from a record 2015. January's passenger figures were achieved despite a dip in the number of operated flights, with a total of 2.878 aircraft movements recorded, down 2% on 2015. During the month, LOT Polish Airlines resumed flights from Warsaw, which helped boost numbers.

In January both Czech Airlines and Air Transat gave more detail of their upcoming services to Zagreb, launching on April 27 and June 14 respectively. Zagreb Airport's Managing Director, Jacques Feron, said he was pleased that flights between the Czech and Croatian capitals will resume following a four year hiatus. He added the service will mark the continuation of a long partnership between the two sides and expressed hope that the airline will make use of the airport's new terminal, which will open its doors next year. Zagreb was Czech Airlines' first international destination, launched in 1930. The route was suspended in 2012 due to the carrier's restructuring. Czech Airlines will maintain four weekly flights between the two cities with a mix of ATR 42 and 72 aircraft.

On the other hand, Air Transat will launch a one weekly seasonal service from Toronto, which will run until October 4. “Our expertise in European travel has once again led us to develop new markets: we’re building on the success of our Prague and Budapest routes by introducing Croatia to our customers this year. We’ve seen [Croatia] as an up-and-coming destination over the past five years”, Dan Prior, Air Transat’s Sales Manager for Ontario and Atlantic Canada said. “For Europe, Croatia has value. It still has a lot of well-priced, quality accommodation and it’s beautiful", Nicole Bursey, Air Transat's Commercial Director, added, noting the service has been scheduled so as to offer connector flights to and from Montreal as well. An Airbus A330 will be deployed on the route.

Meanwhile, work on Zagreb Airport's new multi million euro terminal is continuing. Construction is expected to be completed this year, with the opening scheduled to take place during the first quarter of 2017. You can review the latest developments by clicking on the pictures below.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Maribor Airport secures scheduled flights

Express Airways to launch services from Maribor to Dusseldorf and Split

Maribor Edvard Rusjan Airport, in Slovenia's north-east, has negotiated new scheduled flights for the 2016 summer season, which will see it linked to Dusseldorf and Split. Furthermore, the airport is in talks over potential services to Girona in Spain and flights to either Skopje or Pristina. The German-owned Express Airways will run services from Dusseldorf to Maribor twice per week starting April 28. The route was selected in agreement with local tour operators, while the connection is also expected to benefit local businesses which have strong links to the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia. In addition, Express Airways will launch a one weekly service to Split from May 5, with the airline anticipating strong demand for holiday packages to neighbouring Croatia this summer in light of security concerns at popular leisure hotspots such as Egypt and Tunisia. Furthermore, the carrier is in talks with Maribor Airport over the introduction of flights to Girona. As a result, Express Airways will become the only airline to operate scheduled services to Slovenia's second largest city this summer season.

The Managing Director of Maribor Airport, Ladimir Brolih, recently said talks with Wizz Air over potential services were ongoing but added that further analysis and discussions with the no frills carrier were required. Both northern Germany and Scandinavia have been identified as underserved markets from Slovenia. Maribor Airport handled 24.886 passengers last year, an increase of 41.7% compared to 2014. Last summer, Adria Airways resumed flights from Maribor following a fifteen year hiatus with a three weekly seasonal service to London Southend Airport. However, the airline has no plans to resume the route this year, despite previous promises to turn Maribor into its low cost base during 2016.

On the other hand, Montenegro Airlines plans to introduce seasonal charter flights from Podgorica to Maribor later this year, the carrier’s Assistant Commercial Director, Dragan Popović, said recently, adding that talks with Maribor Airport are in their final stages. The Montenegrin carrier intends to operate one weekly service between the two cities from mid-June to mid-September. The move is in line with the airline’s new strategy to expand operations within the former Yugoslav region. Slovenia was one of Montenegro Airlines’ fastest growing markets in 2015. Its scheduled Podgorica - Ljubljana service saw passenger numbers grow 53% compared to the year before. Recently, the carrier’s CEO, Daliborka Pejović, said the airline is considering adding frequencies to the Slovenian capital this summer.