Friday, October 21, 2016

ANA considers Belgrade flights

All Nippon Airways (ANA) has expressed initial interest in operating flights between Japan and Belgrade. As EX-YU Aviation News learns, contact has been made between the two sides although no concrete agreement has been reached at this point. While early interest may not necessarily result in flights, it is the first time a Japanese carrier has mulled potential operations to Serbia. It comes just weeks after the National Tourism Organisation of Serbia held talks in Tokyo with Japanese tour operators, the country’s tourism board, as well as the Japan International Cooperation Agency and the Japan-Southeast Europe Business Association in a bid to boost travel between the two countries.

As Japan’s largest carrier, ANA is no stranger to the region. This summer, the airline operated six charter flights to Ljubljana and four to Dubrovnik from various cities including Tokyo, Sendai, Osaka and Nagoya with Boeing 777-200 aircraft. The flights were chartered by Japan’s largest tour operator which sold combined packages to Slovenia and Croatia and catered for some 1.250 travellers to each country. The flights ran in late August and early September. Several years ago, JAL Japan Airlines also operated summer charters to Zagreb with Boeing 747 aircraft. Package tours make up the largest segment of all Japanese travellers.

Serbia and Japan enjoy a visa free regime, where both Serbian and Japanese nationals can travel to each others’ countries for up to ninety days without the need to acquire a visa. In 2015, there were 5.196 Japanese tourist arrivals in Serbia, which, although light, was still ahead of arrivals from much closer markets such as Portugal, Finland and Ireland. Lately, there has been increased interest in the region from the Far East with Beijing Capital Airlines to launch flights to Zagreb next summer, while an unnamed Chinese carrier also plans to link Beijing and Belgrade in 2017. Services between Shanghai and the Serbian capital are also being considered. Furthermore, the Slovenian government has also said it is lobbying for a direct service between Ljubljana and China.

ECA anticipates 2017 comeback


Europe's first modern scheduled seaplane service, Croatia’s European Coastal Airlines (ECA), hopes to resume flights in 2017 after it was forced to suspend all operations a few weeks ago citing administrative issues. CEO Klaus Dieter Martin told "Total Croatia News", "We believe in Croatia, and I have convinced my investors to stay on board. It depends now on the Croatian government, very clearly. If they want the project, they have to support the project. I am confident that the new government, new Prime Minister and Transport Minister will recognise the value of the project. We are still very committed to the project and to Croatia, and many people, especially from the islands, have said this is the best thing to happen to Croatia". Mr Dieter Martin also questioned the Croatian Civil Aviation Agency's motives behind grounding the carrier in August, which ultimately led it to suspend all services. The full interview can be found here.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Pristina Airport eyes New York service

Pristina Airport has become the latest in the former Yugoslavia to seek direct flights to New York, some six years after operations between the two cities were suspended. Pristina Airport's General Manager, Haldun Firat Kokturk, said the US city continues to be a target destination. "The airport is focusing on opening new services to destinations not directly served from Pristina. This should have a positive impact in covering more of the countries and catchment areas where our diaspora is located, and will generate additional passengers visiting Kosovo either for leisure or business", Mr Kokturk noted. Other unserved destinations also being looked into include Helsinki, Dortmund, Memmingen, Milan, Amsterdam, Rome, and Malmo.

New York was the top unserved destination from Pristina in 2015. Some 13.000 travellers flew from Pristina to the Big Apple (JFK Airport and Newark Liberty) last year. Of those, 10.000 were headed for New York's JFK Airport. Other routes in North America which saw a notable number of passengers departing Pristina included Chicago, Washington and Toronto. In 2009, Scanderbeg Air, a short-lived tour operator that contracted with Sky King Airlines, launched two weekly flights between Pristina and New York with a Boeing 767-200ER aircraft. Services were maintained twice per week between June and September. The majority of passengers now fly to the US via Vienna with Austrian Airlines and via Istanbul with Turkish. Recognising the potential. Serbia's Prime Minister recently spoke of the importance of resuming service between Pristina and Belgrade in order for travellers to transfer onto Air Serbia's flights to New York via Belgrade. He added that Air Serbia hopes to tap into the large "diaspora of Albanians in New York". The service to the Big Apple has proven popular with a significant number of passengers whose journey either starts or ends in TIrana.

Pristina Airport estimates handling some 1.8 million passengers this year with an average growth rate of 11.1%. “We have achieved significant double digit growth in passenger numbers. We are willing to increase flight numbers and extend our network with additional routes, and we are using our incentive plan to attract airlines in order to catch this growth at a sustainable level. We are expecting a very successful next year, especially if visa liberalisation happens in Kosovo”, Mr Kokturk said. He added, "There is huge potential in some other routes and we are cooperating with different airlines to attract them for opening new services”.

Singapore Airlines adds Belgrade codeshare flights


Singapore Airlines has begun codesharing on Swiss International Airlines' flights to Belgrade. The Singaporean carrier has placed its designator code and flight numbers (SQ2906/7) onto Swiss' early afternoon service between Zurich and Belgrade, six times per week, starting this month, marking its first codeshare flights to the Serbian capital. Singapore Airlines has strengthened its codeshare partnerships in the region recently and has concluded a deal with Croatia Airlines as well.

Croatia Airlines marks Sarajevo anniversary


Croatia Airlines yesterday marked twenty years since launching operations between Zagreb and Sarajevo, becoming the first airline to introduce scheduled flights to the city after the war. It commenced services on the route with an ATR42 and now offers thirteen weekly flights between the two cities with a Dash 8 turboprop. "We are very proud that our aircraft was the first to land at Sarajevo Airport in 1996, which opened a new chapter in its development. Since then, we have carried almost one million passengers on the route", Croatia Airlines' CEO, Krešimir Kučko, said. The carrier has previously announced plans to open a base in the Bosnian capital next year and link it with several European cities.