Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Croatia Airlines' new CEO to decide on fleet


Croatia Airlines' five-month wet-lease arrangement with Iberia Regional (Air Nostrum) for Bombardier CRJ1000 aircraft has come to an end. The two jets, which are both under a year old, have proven popular with passengers and have allowed the airline to launch four new routes this summer season. The first of the two aircraft left Croatia Airlines' fleet this past Sunday, while the second will follow at the end of the summer season in two weeks time. The Croatian carrier has previously said it would use the two Bombardiers, which were operated by Spanish crew and a Croatia Airlines member on board, as a trial for its future fleet expansion. However, at this point, the airline has again outlined plans to wet-lease equipment next summer season, without committing to purchasing or leasing 100-seat airframes on a more permanent basis. Croatia Airlines utilised the two CRJ1000s on services from Zagreb to Brussels, Dubrovnik, Stockholm, Helsinki, Oslo, Skopje, Barcelona and Lisbon.

The airline's outgoing CEO, Krešimir Kučko, previously noted that the carrier would introduce aircraft of similar capacity to the CRJ1000 in 2018 as an addition to its existing fleet. This would bridge the difference in the capacity of its Airbus aircraft, which have 144 to 174 seats, and the Dash 8 Q400 with 76 seats. He added, that the introduction of a third type of aircraft (100-seater) would further optimise the entire fleet and allow even better adjustment to capacity on the Croatian market, which is highly seasonal. Despite plans to add up to six additional jets, this will not materialise and it will be up to the carrier's new CEO, which is yet to be appointed, to make a decision on the future make-up of the fleet. Mr Kučko previously said that an aircraft from a third manufacturer, which is neither Airbus nor Bombardier, would'nt increase costs. "Manufacturer commonality isn’t such a huge advantage when you operate turboprops but want to introduce jets. For us, it’s about cost effectiveness. The CRJ and SSJ100 can take a maximum of 100 seats while the Embraer can take more. So, if your other variables are taken care of, the Embraer’s unit cost can actually work out less than Bombardier’s CRJ. But while the Embraer E-Jet has a slightly better operational performance, its heavier weight means it is more expensive to operate given its higher handling fees and air navigation charges", Mr Kučko said. 

The future make-up of Croatia Airlines' fleet will also depend on its potential privatisation process. Mr Kučko has said the airline is in contact with financial institutions, as well as investment funds and could draft a proposal to the carrier's majority owner, the Croatian government, over plans to seek a new strategic partner by year's end. A new partner would provide much needed capital to speed-up the airline's fleet expansion process. In addition to the one CRJ1000 still flying for the carrier, Croatia Airlines boasts a fleet of twelve aircraft. Five of them are owned by the company itself (four A319s and one A320), while the rest are on lease. Next year, the airline will have to decide whether it will extend the financial lease agreement for its six Dash 8s. Furthermore, Croatia Airlines has four Airbus A320neos on order. The first two jets are scheduled to arrive in Zagreb in 2021, while the other two are due a year later. However, sources claim the carrier is considering an interim lift before the delivery of the A320neos, meaning it could lease aircraft from Airbus prior to 2021. According to its 2015 agreement with the European plane manufacturer, Croatia Airlines is to begin advanced payments for the aircraft this year, while the remainder will be payed upon their delivery.

Government to support Montenegro Airlines

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The Prime Minister of Montenegro, Duško Marković, has said his government will continue to support the country's debt-ridden national carrier. Mr Marković noted that the state will “initiate procedures to take responsibility for” and pay off Montenegro Airlines‘ obligations to creditors. He added, “Only irresponsible individuals, frustrated politicians and political calculators can criticise the government’s commitment and intention to support Montenegro Airlines". The government has come under scrutiny after it injected 2.2 million euros into the carrier three months ago. Furthermore, it ordered Airports of Montenegro, the profitable public operator of Podgorica and Tivat airports, to use its profits as a guarantee for a 2.3 million euro bank loan for the airline, taken out some ten days ago. The Prime Minister noted, "Others will decide whether we are respecting the law. We did this in accordance to the law and our powers. Those who think differently can contact the public prosecutor and the police". This coming Thursday, the former head of Montenegro Airlines, Zoran Djurišić, who ran the airline for almost twenty years, as well as the former President of the Board of Directors Daliborka Pejović, and an opposition politician will face off in a live televised debate which will focus on Montenegro Airlines and its operations.

SAS to launch seasonal Sarajevo flights

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SAS Scandinavian Airlines will introduce seasonal summer flights between Copenhagen and Sarajevo in 2018. Services will commence on March 24 and run twice per week, initially each Tuesday and Sunday, and later on Tuesdays and Thursdays, until late September. Sarajevo Airport has been courting SAS for years, sending a request for the carrier to consider flights between the two cities as far back as 2012. The airline will face direct competition on the route from Norwegian Air Shuttle, which also maintains the service on a seasonal basis. Further flight details for SAS' new Sarajevo route can be found here. Tickets are already on sale.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Air Serbia registers passenger milestone


Air Serbia has handled its ten millionth passenger since relaunching under its new brand name in partnership with Etihad Airways on October 26, 2013. The milestone comes as the airline continues to roll out new measures aimed at cutting costs and improving profitability. The ten millionth traveller was carried yesterday on a flight from Belgrade to Tirana. The route itself was relaunched in 2014, six years after predecessor Jat Airways suspended the service. Air Serbia's CEO, Dane Kondić, said, “We’re thrilled to have carried ten million guests in a short timeframe of just under four years. It’s a remarkable achievement for a young airline the size of Air Serbia and means that, on average, we have flown just under 7.000 people to and from Belgrade every day, making an enormous contribution to the wider economy. We’re grateful for the continued support of our guests and look forward to providing more choice, convenience and flexibility". The traveller received two return tickets to any destination within Air Serbia's network.

The Serbian carrier handled roughly the same number of passengers during the first three quarters of 2017 as during the same period last year, despite a notable reduction in the number of aircraft movements. The result was achieved in part due to an increase in capacity on its narrow-body Airbus fleet following the retrofit of the aircraft with slimline seats, as well as a bumper charter flight season which has been significantly extended this year. In 2013 Jat Airways (ten months) and Air Serbia (two months) handled 1.38 million passengers. The following year the figure increased 66% to 2.3 million, while in 2015 the carrier welcomed 2.55 million travellers on board its aircraft. Last year, the airline carried 2.62 million passengers.


Air Serbia has continued to step-up its internal consolidation measures. After closing all of its retail offices within Serbia, with exception to Belgrade, the airline recently put on sale 115 square metres of office space in Budva in Montenegro for 265.100 euros. The carrier has also halved the size of its flagship retail office in downtown Belgrade. The airline is now expected to outsource its ground handling services. Air Serbia's Chairman of the Supervisory Board, Siniša Mali, previously said, "This is part of a business plan which will boost profitability. All of these measures are standard and part of a process where you try to reduce your losses on one hand, and increase profits on the other. Air Serbia is a stable company. We have improved in all metrics compared to last year, both in profitability and passengers carried". The measures come as part-owner Etihad Airways disposes of its unprofitable European investments.

Qatar Airways hiring in Skopje

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Qatar Airways is seeking new cabin crew members from Macedonia in its fourth employment drive in the country this year. The Doha-based airline will host a recruitment event in Skopje on October 28 at the Holiday Inn Hotel (Filip Vtori Makedonski 5) at 09.00 local time. Those interested must register beforehand. Requirements include a minimum age of 21 years, arm reach of 212 cm on tip toes, high school education with fluency in written and spoken English and excellent health and fitness. Qatar Airways launched services to Skopje in July this year. Further details, as well as the application form can be found here.