Wednesday, March 21, 2018

EX-YU airports see greater long haul interest

Airports across the former Yugoslaiva are begining to attract a greater number of long haul carriers or are actively trying to secure such flights, with Zagreb, Belgrade, Skopje and Dubrovnik among them.

This summer season, Croatia's busiest airport will add another long haul carrier with Air Canada Rouge to commence flights from Toronto. The leisure airline will offer a total 20.586 seats each way between Canada's largest city and Zagreb during the June 2 to October 7 period, over which it will maintain the seasonal service. Asked whether the route could be extended into winter or upgraded to its mainline operations, the airline noted, "This is a seasonal service. Any potential modifications will depend on a range of factors. We are always assessing every route’s performance to ensure our schedule meets demand". Another carrier to have announced its plans to commence long haul operations to Zagreb is Korean Air's low cost long haul subsidiary Jin Air, which intends on launching operations to the Croatian capital next year. Thai Air Asia X this week reaffirmed its interest in flying between Bangkok and Zagreb in the foreseeable future. Its CEO, Nadda Buranasiri, noted, "We haven’t been able to grow for the past two years because of Thailand’s red flag [ban by regulators over safety]. So this is going to be the year that we start expanding, but in a profitable way. We hope our network will cover north and south Asia and we imagine we’ll also be in Europe. If the market makes sense then we’ll look at it, even if it is unserved. We’d assess whether we can build a story on both sides to ensure people will be interested in going to that destination". Earlier this year, the carrier said, "Croatia has been one of the possibilities that we are currently engaging in a feasibility study".

Belgrade Airport is expected to add a second long haul route from China this year. Services from Shanghai are anticipated after operations were introduced from Beijing via Prague last year. Initial talks concerning the service are believed to have taken place with Hainan Airlines, Air China and China Southern Airlines. The Chinese Ambassador to Serbia noted earlier this month, "We are currently discussing the introduction of a second service between Belgrade and another Chinese city". Air Serbia is also expected to revisit its long haul plans in 2019 after deciding against introducing flights from Belgrade to Toronto this year. A spokesman for the Greater Toronto Airports Authority told EX-YU Aviation News, "At this time, Air Serbia service will not be starting this summer, but we will continue to work with Air Serbia to find an opportunity to add Toronto Pearson as one of their newest travel destinations". VINCI Airports, which will sign up for a 25 year concession of Belgrade Airport tomorrow, recently said, "VINCI Airports will aim at improving airport operating conditions to enable Air Serbia to offer new long haul routes as part of its hub strategy". Meanwhile, Korea's Jin Air has noted that services between Seoul to the Serbian capital are planned to launch in 2020.

Skopje Airport has also expressed interest in offering long haul flights and has suggested for Turkish Airlines to launch services from the Macedonian capital to North America. "We have always established close relationships with our airline clients through our world-wide airport operations. This is also the case in Macedonia and we are ready to provide the utmost support to an airline which would consider flying transatlantic from Skopje. Skopje Airport is operationally capable to handle such transatlantic flights and ready to support carriers which would consider operating", the General Manager of operator TAV Macedonia, Alper Ersoy, said. He added, "The Balkan region is still immature in terms of connectivity to US and Canadian destinations. Still, most of the passengers originating from the Balkan region must make at least one connection to fly transatlantic, which is a hassle. In this regard, if Skopje manages to serve a transatlantic flight in the future, this will be beneficial for the whole Balkan area. A nonstop flight to North America would lead to additional feeder flights from the Balkan region to Skopje. The airport would attract many passengers from surrounding countries". Over 40.000 passengers originating from Skopje travel to North American destinations each year.

Dubrovnik Airport has identified the United States and South Korea as two markets which could sustain services to the coastal city but noted that the development of long haul flights is still some way off. General Manager, Frano Luetić, told EX-YU Aviation News, "These two far-away markets are the most important for Dubrovnik. According to the city's tourist board, visitors from the US are the second most common, behind those from the United Kingdom, which is specific to the Dubrovnik region. On the other hand, Korean tourists are most plentiful during the winter months". With exception to several summer charters from Japan, operated by All Nippon Airways, Dubrovnik Airport currently has no regular long haul flights. Mr Luetić noted that despite the potential, there are still no concrete announcements concerning the establishment of such services.

VLM to maintain Maribor flights


VLM Airlines will continue to operate services between Maribor and Antwerp via Munich over the summer season. In a statement, the carrier noted that the flights, which were launched last month, would run five times per week, Monday through to Friday. "Our morning flights from Maribor to Munich will operate three hours earlier. This way, passengers will have more time to do business or enjoy a visit to the city", VLM said. The changes to the schedule will come into effect next Monday. Last month, VLM Airlines' Chief Operating Officer, Carl Runge, indicated that although no concrete plans have been made yet, the carrier is interested in establishing flights from Maribor to Zurich and Belgrade, as well as summer charter flights to the Croatian coast. The General Manager of Maribor's Edvard Rusjan Airport, Boris Bobek said, "We're happy that regular services are returning to Maribor Airport. We believe both Munich and Antwerp are very interesting destinations, mostly because of the onward connections offered from Munich, and, of course, because of the strong existing ties of our region with Bavaria".

Mostar Airport sees zero traffic in January


Mostar Airport registered no aircraft movement or passenger traffic this January, data from the Bosnia and Herzegovina Directorate of Civil Aviation shows. As a result, Mostar recorded a 100% decrease in passenger numbers during the first month of the year as it handled 291 travellers in January 2017. In February this year, Mostar saw 171 passengers pass through its doors, down 65.3% on 2017. Overall, during the first two months of the year, Mostar Airport's figures declined 78.2%. Despite the lacklustre start to the year, the airport will see three new scheduled routes this summer season, with Croatia Airline to launch year-round operations from Zagreb on May 3, while Eurowings will commence services from Dusseldorf and Stuttgart on May 16 and 19 respectively.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Summer 2018 - Croatia Airlines

Croatia Airlines will be adding new routes to its summer timetable, which begins this Sunday, marking the third consecutive year it has introduced new destinations to its network. The airline will launch seasonal two weekly flights from Zagreb to Dublin, and year-round operations to Mostar in May. Furthermore, it will boost frequencies on a number of routes. An additional weekly flight will be operated from the Croatian capital to Rome for a total of nine per week (via Dubrovnik or Split), while an extra frequency to St Petersburg and Tel Aviv will result in the two being maintained three times per week. Skopje will see the biggest increase out of Zagreb, with a further four return flights to be performed each week for a total of twelve. The Croatian carrier will also introduce a new seasonal service from Split to Copenhagen and from Dubrovnik to Munich.

On the other hand, Croatia Airlines will suspend four of its seasonal routes this summer. The airline will no longer operate two weekly flights from Zagreb to Pristina and from Dubrovnik to Nice. Furthermore, the carrier will cut its one weekly operation between Pula and Zurich and from Rijeka to London Heathrow. The Croatian airline will also discontinue five out of eight of its weekly flights from Zagreb to London Heathrow after selling its slots at the world's most congested airport. All other destinations will be served by the same number of frequencies as last summer season. Similar to last year, the carrier will add two wet-leased Iberia Regional Bombardier CRJ1000 aircraft to its fleet from May.

Please note that the changes listed below are preliminary and based on current availability in the Global Distribution System (GDS). Furthermore, the tables below display the peak weekly frequency on each route during the course of the summer season. Increases in frequencies, particularly on domestic flights between Zagreb, Dubrovnik, Split, Zadar and Pula, may not come into effect until later on in the summer and can vary depending on the time of the year. You can now review the 2018 summer season changes for each national carrier from the former Yugoslavia by clicking on the links below. In addition, you can review Wizz Air's summer operations from the former Yugoslavia here. The 2018 summer season runs until October 27.

Departing Zagreb

DestinationFrequency S2017Frequency S2018Change   Notes
Athens66-via Dubrovnik
resumes APR12
Bucharest33-resumes MAY02
Dublin02▲ 2starts MAY03
Helsinki33-resumes MAY01
Lisbon44-resumes APR30
London Heathrow83 5-
Milan33-resumes MAY01
Mostar02▲ 2starts MAY03
Oslo33-resumes MAY01
Prague44-resumes MAY01
Pristina20 2-
Pula1313-via Zadar
Rome89▲ 16 flights via Split
3 flights via Dubrovnik
Skopje812▲ 4-
St. Petersburg23▲ 1resumes MAY01
Stockholm33-resumes MAY02
Tel Aviv23▲ 1resumes MAY15

Departing Split

DestinationFrequency S2017Frequency S2018Change  Notes
Athens11-resumes JUN02
ends SEP29
Berlin11-resumes APR28
Belgrade33-resumes MAY12
ends SEP22
Copenhagen01▲ 1starts MAY05
Dubrovnik11-resumes MAY5
ends OCT06
Dusseldorf22-resumes APR28
London Gatwick22-resumes APR16
London Heathrow11--
Lyon11-resumes APR28
ends OCT06
Vienna44-resumes APR30
ends OCT20
Zurich55-resumes MAY02

Departing Dubrovnik

Destination  Frequency S2017Frequency S2018Change  Notes
Amsterdam11-via Pula
Athens66-resumes APR12
Dusseldorf11-resumes MAY06
ends OCT21
Munich05▲ 5starts APR30
Nice20 2-
Pula11-resumes MAY29
ends SEP25
Rome23▲ 1-
Venice22-resumes MAY03
ends OCT14
Zurich55-resumes APR29

From Pula, Croatia Airlines will operate to Amsterdam (1x per week), Dubrovnik (1x per week), Frankfurt (2x per week), Zadar (13x per week), Zagreb (13x per week). All frequencies remain unchanged compared to last year, with exception to the one weekly service to Zurich which is suspended. From Osijek, the airline will fly to both Split and Dubrovnik (1x per week).

From Zadar, the airline will operate to Pula (13x per week), Zagreb (13x per week) and Frankfurt (2x per week), maintaining last year's frequencies. Rijeka will see the Croatian national airline operate flights to Munich (3x per week) as was the case during the summer of 2017, however, it will suspend its one weekly flight to London Heathrow.

Ryanair adds new Podgorica service


Ryanair will introduce a new seasonal service between Wroclaw in western Poland and Podgorica this summer. The budget carrier will operate one weekly flight on the route, each Tuesday, from June 5 until the end of the summer season. It will complement the airline's existing network out of Podgorica consisting of four year-round destinations. Demand for flights from Poland to Montenegro has grown significantly in the past year. This summer, in addition to LOT's six weekly service from Warsaw, Wizz Air will introduce seasonal operations from Warsaw and Katowice to Podgorica. Further flight details for the new Wroclaw to Podgorica route can be found here.

Banja Luka Airport's decline continues


Banja Luka Airport has continued to shed passengers in the new year with numbers declining in both January and February compared to 2017. During the first month of the year, the airport handled 1.203 travellers, which is down 18.9%, while in February figures decreased 18.1% to 717. Overall, the airport welcomed 1.920 passengers during the first two months of the year, representing a decline of 18.6%. Banja Luka Airport previously said it aims to handle some 100.000 passengers and offer flights to up to five destinations by the end of 2019 in a bid to turn around its fortunes. It has struggled to attract travellers over the past few years with Air Serbia being its only customer at the moment, maintaining two to three weekly flights from Belgrade during the winter and five over the summer.

Monday, March 19, 2018

MENA airlines boost Belgrade operations

Carriers from the Middle East and North Africa region (MENA) will significantly boost capacity or increase operations to the Serbian capital this summer. One of the biggest developments in the run up to the start of the new season at Belgrade Airport has been the strong demand for flights between Iran and Serbia, which has resulted in six weekly services between Tehran and Belgrade to be operated by three different carriers, one of which will utilise wide-body aircraft. Following Iran Air, which commenced operations to the Serbian capital ten days ago, Qeshm Air inaugurated services between the two cities this morning, which will be followed by Mahan Air tomorrow. Iran Air's Deputy Manager of Operations, Abbas Ahadian Moghdam, said last week, "We hope to expand this operation. We could introduce some additional flights from other Iranian cities and we hope to establish good relations and cooperate with Air Serbia".

Iran Air jet greeted by water cannon salute in Belgrade last week

Carriers from the Gulf will also continue to grow their operations to Belgrade this summer. Etihad Airways will increase frequencies on its flights from Abu Dhabi from daily to ten weekly between July and September. The Emirati carrier will add a second daily service between the two capitals each Monday, Thursday and Saturday. Starting May 1, Qatar Airways will introduce an additional 45 seats each way on its daily service from Doha to Belgrade by upgrading equipment from the Airbus A320 aircraft to the larger A321. On the other hand, as of last week, Flydubai has deployed its new 166-seat Boeing 737 MAX 8 jet on its Belgrade service. Commenting on the equipment upgrade, Jeyhun Efendi, the airline's ‎Senior Vice President for Commercial Operations, said, "We are the first airline in the Middle East to fly this aircraft to Belgrade. It is a very efficient machine. We have new seats in economy and business class. One of the biggest features on this aircraft are ten flat bed seats in business class. The aircraft also has 156 seats in economy, which have been upgraded and feature a new in-flight entertainment system. These seats are actually used on long haul aircraft by other airlines".

Egypt Air's subsidiary, Air Cairo, will increase its operations from Hurghada to Belgrade from four to five per week this summer, starting May 14. The airline, which maintains year-round operations to the Serbian capital, told EX-YU Aviation News, "The tourism market is returning and we saw a good summer in Belgrade last year, which will be exceeded this coming season. We have been operating to Serbia for several years and we have a good name with tour operators as a charter carrier". Air Cairo also has seats on sale for individual bookings on this route. Commenting on its future plans, the airline noted it would consider introducing flights from Sharm el Sheikh to Belgrade and would coordinate future operations on this route with Egypt Air Express, which itself will open a base in the holiday resort town with the arrival of its new Bombardier CS300 aircraft from November onwards.

Serbia and Morocco are still expected to establish flights after the Serbian Foreign Minister met with the Prime Minister of Morocco in Rabat last week, where the matter was discussed amongst other things. The Moroccan Prime Minister noted, "The recently signed bilateral air agreement and the discussions on visa exemption for ordinary passport holders will develop tourism ties between the two countries". Last year, the Moroccan Ambassador to Serbia said the kingdom's national carrier had expressed interest in introducing flights between Casablanca and Belgrade during the 2018 summer season. On the other hand, Tunis Air will maintain two weekly flights from Tunis, as well as charter services from Monastir, to the Serbian capital. The two countries signed a new Air Service Agreement last December in order to better regulate air traffic and boost bilateral cooperation. The deal allows for carriers from each state to codeshare on the others' services.