Thursday, August 25, 2016

Chinese carriers eye EX-YU market

Zagreb and Belgrade are to be linked with Beijing next year as demand for air travel to and from China continues to grow. In addition, Ljubljana is also seeking flights to the country. Beijing Capital Airlines, which recently received clearance from local regulators to launch services to Zagreb next year has confirmed to EX-YU Aviation News its intent to follow through with its plans. The carrier says that while flights will primarily cater for tourists, tickets will be available to individual travellers as well. The service, which will run twice per week, will launch in June with its 222-seat Airbus A330-200 jet. Beijing Capital Airlines, a subsidiary of Hainan Airlines, flies an all-Airbus fleet of 67 aircraft from its core bases in Beijing, Guangzhou, Shenyang, Xi’an and Hangzhou to cities across China and international destinations in Asia, Europe and North America. “BCA obtained IOSA accreditation this May and officially became an IATA member”, Beijing Capital Airlines CEO, Xu Jun, said last week. In 2015, over 203.000 Chinese tourists visited Croatia with 269.000 overnight stays registered. The figures represent a 36% increase in arrivals and 37% in overnights. This year over 300.000 visitors from China are expected to arrive in Croatia.

Flights between Beijing and Belgrade are set to begin next year as well after the Serbian government entered into talks with a yet-to-be named Chinese carrier over the matter last month. The service is expected to be introduced before flights between Beijing and Zagreb are launched. Chinese airlines must first be granted approval from the Civil Aviation Administration of China to commence a particular route. Whether any carrier lodged an application during the third quarter of this year to run services to the Serbian capital in 2017 won't be made public until mid-October. The European Travel Commission, which is forecasting a 7.4% increase of Chinese arrival numbers to Europe this year, has identified Serbia as a growing market for Chinese tourists, as they look to travel to more ‘novel’ locations. However, only 14.200 Chinese holiday makers visited the country last year.

Ljubljana Jože Pučnik Airport is also seeking to establish a direct air link to Beijing. Both the Chinese Embassy in Slovenia and the Slovenian government have begun procedures for the flights to be launched. Ljubljana Airport's Head of Airline Management, Janez Krašnja, recently said that the airport is supporting the Embassy's efforts, noting that intercontinental flights would give it a competitive advantage in the region. He expressed hope that a Chinese carrier could be persuaded to launch the service. In May, the Slovenian Minister for Economic Development and Technology, Zdravko Počivalšek, discussed the possibility of introducing flights between the two capital cities, with Ljubljana likely to be used a stopover en route to another European destination such as Prague. Slovenia welcomed 37.796 Chinese tourists in 2015.

Etihad Engineering to train Serbian graduates


Graduates from Serbia are undergoing practical training with Etihad Airways Engineering in Abu Dhabi as part of the company’s investment in the country, following Etihad Airways’ part-takeover of Air Serbia, the company said in a statement. Etihad Airways Engineering currently provides airframe and component maintenance services, as well as supply chain management and design engineering to Etihad Airways, its equity partner airlines and third-party carriers. Students will spend the first six months of their practical training rotating in the workshop at the Etihad Airways Engineering Hangar at Abu Dhabi Airport. From there they will commence work on the Etihad fleet moving through different aircraft, as well as gaining experience in different maintenance departments. The Graduate Engineering programmes are run in partnership with the Higher Colleges of Technology in Abu Dhabi and incorporate two years of theory training, as well as two years’ practical training with Etihad Airways Engineering. Etihad Airways Engineering played an instrumental role in the introduction of Air Serbia first wide-body aircraft, the Airbus A330-200. The division was responsible for reconditioning the aircraft’s cabins, repainting the livery and configuring the inflight Wi-Fi connectivity system.

Germania Flug to end Pristina service


The Swiss-based Germania, Germania Flug, will suspend flights between Zurich and Pristina at the start of the 2016/17 winter season this October. The carrier currently maintains five weekly flights between the two cities. Germania Flug was Pristina's tenth busiest airline in 2015, handling some 40.000 passengers. Several airlines will end some of their operations to Pristina this winter including Croatia Airlines from Zagreb, SAS Scandinavian Airlines from Copenhagen and Eurowings from Berlin. On the other hand, easyJet will launch services from Paris on October 1.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Montenegro outlines Etihad tie-up plans

Montenegro Airlines has announced plans to form a strategic partnership with Etihad Airways, noting that its recent wide-ranging codeshare agreement with Air Serbia is the first in a series of steps to achieving this goal. The President of the carrier's Board of Directors, Daliborka Pejović, says that following the agreement with its Serbian counterpart, Montenegro Airlines will pursue similar deals with Aliatalia and Air Berlin, which are both partly owned by Etihad Airways. "We have been in talks with Etihad Airways for almost two years with the aim of securing a strategic partnership for our national carrier. After Air Serbia, we expect to hold talks with Alitalia and Air Berlin. This is the next step in our mission. Afterwards, we truly hope that we will meet the expectations of the government's Privatisation Council and get a strategic partner for the stable and sustainable future development of our national carrier", Ms Pejović said.

Montenegro Airlines' arrangement with Air Serbia, which will see it place its flight numbers and designator code on 32 destinations, thus allowing it to sell tickets on the Serbian carrier's flights, will come into effect on October 1. Montenegro Airlines already boasts codeshare agreements with Alitalia on its flights between Rome and Podgorica, as well as Adria Airways, Air France, Austrian and S7 Airlines. The carrier currently operates with a fleet of six aircraft, including one Embraer E190, three E195s and two Fokker 100s. However, the airline also faces significant financial problems with a record net loss of over ten million euros registered last year. It has recently emerged that despite its substantial debt, the carrier took out yet another loan in June for 800.000 euros, which must be payed back by September 30.

Ms Pejović conceded that the airline is dealing with a number of issues, further emphasising the need for a strong partner. "Personally, we all have the responsibility to keep this brand at all costs. Despite all the problems we have faced over the past three years we are successfully dealing with them and I believe we are making significant strides that probably no one expected of us in this situation. I hope we will keep moving forward at this same pace", Ms Pejović noted. In 2011, the Montenegrin government offered a 30% stake in its national airline. At the time, Etihad purchased the tender documentation but never made a takeover bid and the privatisation process ultimately failed. In November last year, the two carriers signed a Memorandum of Understanding for Strategic Commercial Cooperation.

Air Serbia records solid New York figures

Air Serbia has seen solid passenger numbers on its transatlantic flights since the launch of its New York service on June 23. According to the President of Air Serbia's Supervisory Board, Siniša Mali, the carrier handled 17.410 passengers on the Belgrade - New York - Belgrade route by the start of this week, exactly two months since the launch. The average cabin load factor stood at 79.1%. "The results are satisfactory and I hope this successful trend will continue in the future", Mr Mali said yesterday. Air Serbia maintains five weekly flights to New York with its 254-seat Airbus A330-200 aircraft, featuring eighteen seats in business class and the remaining 236 in economy.