Tuesday, February 21, 2017

AtlasGlobal to launch Sarajevo service

Turkish carrier AtlasGlobal will continue to expand into former Yugoslavia this summer with the introduction of flights between Istanbul Ataturk Airport and Sarajevo. Speaking at a media event in Belgrade yesterday, the airline's regional Country Manager, Ender Karaca, said, "We plan to expand in the Balkans. Next we will introduce flights to Belgrade and Sarajevo. The Balkans is a great place for doing business". The airline previously announced it would launch daily flights from Istanbul to the Serbian capital on March 15, which are to be codeshared by Air Serbia. Ticket sales for AtlasGlobal's new Sarajevo service are expected to commence in the coming days. The two cities in the former Yugoslavia will become part of the seventeen new destinations the carrier intends to launch this year. Others in the region include Tirana and Bucharest.

AtlasGlobal will have strong competition on its Sarajevo service. The carrier will face off directly against Turkish Airlines, which will maintain eighteen weekly flights between the two cities this summer season. AtlasGlobal will become the first company other than Turkish to operate the route since 2014. Furthermore, low cost Pegasus Airlines will run nine weekly flights from Istanbul's Sabiha Gokcen Airport to Sarajevo. Previously known as Atlasjet, AtlasGlobal is a full fare carrier operating a fleet of 23 Airbus A319, A320 and A321 aircraft in a two-class configuration. It maintains operations throughout Turkey, northern Cyprus, the Middle East, Europe and Asia and sets itself apart from the competition by offering a generous baggage allowance policy of forty kilograms of checked-in luggage in business and thirty in economy on its international flights, which is above the industry average.

AtlasGlobal business class cabin

Sarajevo Airport has previously said it anticipates seeing a "turning point" in its operations this year with plans to handle one million passengers. Besides AtlasGlobal, Wizz Air has announced the launch of two weekly flights from Budapest starting this April, while TUIFly Belgium will introduce seasonal services from Charleroi to the Bosnian capital. Furthermore, Swiss International Air Lines and Air Arabia will resume summer flights from Zurich and Sharjah respectively. Qatar Airways is expected to commence services from Doha, which were initially scheduled to launch in 2016. In a statement to EX-YU Aviation News, the airline said it is committed to honouring its plans of introducing four weekly flights to the Bosnian capital this year, but it is yet to schedule a launch date due to a delay in the arrival of new aircraft.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Croatia Airlines sale back on the agenda

The privatisation of Croatia Airlines is back on the agenda after the government adopted plans to raise over 200 million euros from the sale of state-owned companies over the next three years. Businesses which have not been classified of strategic importance to Croatia are all in contention for sale. The state's former administration removed the Croatian carrier from the list in order to pave way for its privatisation. The Minister for State Property, Goran Marić, did not give an exact timeline of when the process could be launched, saying, "What has the highest value on the market at any given time and is not of strategic importance will be sold". The Croatian Minister for Sea, Transport and Infrastructure, Oleg Butković, previously said the airline should first stabilise its operations and business before it is privatised, noting this can only be achieved by increasing the carrier's competitiveness and strengthening its market position. Once these conditions are met, Mr Butković said a strategic partner should be found with "extensive experience in the commercial aviation sector, which would ensure network expansion and market share growth".

In a recent interview with "Ch Aviation", the CEO of Croatia Airlines, Krešimir Kučko, noted, "We need an investor in order to grow faster. Though we could sustain our operations using our own funds, expanding is essential and it requires money". He added, "Air Serbia is heavily subsidised by the Serbian government so it is not very difficult to build an airline when money isn’t an issue. While Adria Airways did manage to find an investor, it was sold for a very low price. I hope that they are going to make it with the present set-up". Croatia Airlines was put up for sale in 2014, however, no interest was expressed during an international tender.

The former Minister for Sea, Transport and Infrastructure in the Croatian government, Siniša Hajdaš Dončić, said that a total of six companies had previously expressed interest in buying a stake in the national carrier and has urged the country's Prime Minister to resume Croatia Airlines' privatisation process. "A total of six parties had expressed interest. Among them was Lufthansa, as well as a company from Cyprus and Greece each. We also held talks with an Indonesian (Garuda) and Chinese (Hainan) airline and there was initial interest from both. It was up to Croatia Airlines to decide which path they would take. Usually, the sale of a company and the search for a strategic partner lasts four to five years. This is not a priority for the new government", Mr Hajdaš Dončić said. He added that following the sale of the carrier's lucrative slots at London's Heathrow Airport to Delta Air Lines, the search for a partner will become more difficult.

Trade Air secures Switzerland contract


Croatian charter carrier Trade Air has secured a contract with Swiss start-up PowdAir for the 2017/18 winter season. Plans for the new airline dedicated to the winter snowsports market were announced in Switzerland last week. PowdAir is due to begin operations in December, offering direct flights from six airports in the United Kingdom, as well as Rotterdam and Brussels, to Sion, the capital of the Valais canton. PowdAir will wetlease Trade Air's Fokker 100 aircraft and fly five days per week, from Thursday to Monday. The airline will pursue its own Air Operator Certificate to enable it to run its own flights for the following season.

Air Berlin to end Pristina and Skopje flights


Air Berlin will discontinue services from Zurich to both Pristina and Skopje at the end of next month as the airline undergoes restructuring in an attempt to improve its finances. The last flight to Pristina will operate on March 25, while the final service to the Macedonian capital is scheduled for March 31. Edelweiss Air and Germania Flug will continue to link Pristina and Skopje with Switzerland's largest city. Zurich was the busiest destination served out of Pristina in 2016 and the second busiest out of Skopje.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Banja Luka Airport at "crossroads"

Banja Luka Airport is at a "crossroads in operations", according to its General Manager Miroslav Janjić, as it plans to handle some 200.000 passengers on an annual basis within a three-year period. "We can say that this year we are at a crossroads, during which we have to make decisions concerning the launch of new routes. Of course, we have Belgrade, but besides Belgrade there are several other destinations of interest, such as Vienna and Zurich. We are also determined to secure flights to Scandinavia", Mr Janjić said. He added, "There is strong interest from serious carriers. Air Serbia is certainly one of them. I say this with a full heart because they already fly to the United States and are constantly expanding their network in Europe and Asia. But they are not the only ones. That's all I can say at the moment".

The General Manager conceded that talks with Wizz Air, which were held several years ago, were a missed opportunity. "I can't say it was great pity but in some ways it was an opportunity. Tuzla has its own growth strategy and I would not like to comment on that. Their development is separate from ours. We have different preferences and needs. How come there are no low cost airlines flying from Zagreb? I think we can draw similarities between us and Zagreb in that respect", Mr Janjić said. He noted that after the planned overhaul of the airport is completed later this year, new routes will be announced from Banja Luka.

Banja Luka Airport recently confirmed it had ceased negotiations with the German-backed Sea Air, which was previously registered in Slovenia. The decision comes following media reports of the airline's former ventures in Croatia which have all turned out to be unsescsessful. Sea Air proposed to introduce two weekly flights from Banja Luka to Frankfurt, Stockholm, Malmo and Basel in March. It also suggested to base one passenger and one cargo plane each in the city. Banja Luka Airport has struggled to attract passengers over the last few years with Air Serbia being its only customer at the moment, maintaining three weekly flights from Belgrade.