Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Zagreb Airport set for record summer

Zagreb Airport will handle its millionth traveller of the year later today, marking the first time it has managed to do so in May. The passenger will be carried on a Croatia Airlines flight from Zagreb to Rome. They will be awarded with two return tickets to a destination of their choice within the carrier's network, as well as access to Zagreb Airport's premium lounge. The milestone will be reached six days ahead of last year. With a full two days to go until the end of the month, Zagreb Airport handled roughly the same number of passengers in May as it did last year, with the bulk of the growth so far in 2017 generated in April, when figures improved 18.7%.

This year has seen Zagreb Airport welcome new airlines and routes. In late April, Monarch Airlines launched services from London Gatwick and Manchester, while earlier this month Croatia Airlines introduced flights to Oslo, Stockholm, Helsinki and Bucharest. Furthermore, Canada's Air Transat will resume its seasonal service from Toronto to the Croatian capital this evening. Unlike last year, the airline will run two instead of on weekly flight and services will operate longer into the year, until October 18. The second weekly service will be maintained between June 18 and September 3. "We increased our capacity on the destination from one to two direct flights from Toronto for our summer 2017 season in order to offer our customers more flexibility in their choices of holiday duration and packages. Our advantage is that we have an extensive European network, allowing our passengers to combine their trip to Zagreb with other cities, such as Venice and Budapest", Air Transat told EX-YU Aviation News. The leisure carrier's service resumption will be followed-up with the launch of Emirates' new flights from Dubai, which begin this Thursday, and Norwegian Air Shuttle's new service from Stockholm on June 10.

Air Transat resumes Zagreb flights this evening

Growth at Croatia's busiest airport is expected to continue into the winter months with Eurowings to introduce flights from Dusseldorf on October 31. Furthermore, Croatia Airlines will upgrade its seasonal flights to Barcelona and Lisbon to year-round operations. Services to Barcelona will be maintained twice per week, each Tuesday and Sunday, during the winter, while Lisbon will operate on Mondays and Fridays. The Croatian carrier introduced seasonal flights to Barcelona in 2009, while operations to Lisbon were launched last year. Both have proved solid performers for the airline, which will utilise one of its Airbus A319 aircraft on both routes during the winter months. Zagreb Airport anticipates handling three million passengers by year's end.

Wizz Air hiring Serbian crew


Low cost airline Wizz Air is hiring new cabin crew members at their Belgrade base. The Open Recruitment Day will take place at the Jump Inn Hotel (Zagrebačka 2A) on Friday, June 2, starting at 09.00 CEST. Interested applicants must be at least eighteen years old, have a minimum high school diploma and be fluent in English and another southeast European language, preferably Serbian. Those attending the open day must bring with them an updated English CV, preferably two photos (face and full body), as well as references.

Turkmenistan seeks Slovenia flights


The government of the central Asian republic of Turkmenistan has said that talks are underway with its Slovenian counterpart over the establishment of nonstop flights between Ashgabat and Ljubljana. The government says the development will help improve trade and business relations. Talks between the two countries over nonstop flights began in October last year. Turkmenistan Airlines has been suggested as the possible operator. The carrier boasts a fleet 31 aircraft including Boeing 777s and serves Germany, the United Kingdom, France, Russia and Belarus in Europe, as well as destinations across Asia. Turkmenistan opened a new $2.3 billion passenger terminal at Ashgabat Airport last year as the former Soviet republic tries to become an international transport hub in Central Asia and reduce its dependence on revenues from natural gas exports. Turkmenistan has a strict visa policy and only attracts about 100.000 tourists a year. However, authorities say they hope for a higher number of foreign visitors when the capital hosts the Asian Indoor Games in September.

Monday, May 29, 2017

HNA Group frontrunner for Belgrade concession

China's HNA Group, a sprawling conglomerate with interests in aviation and tourism, is the favourite to win a tender for the financing, development, maintenance and management of infrastructure at Belgrade Airport over the next 25 years. HNA, which is bidding as part of a consortium with China National Aero-technology International Engineering Corporation, which designs, contracts, and constructs various public, civil, and industrial projects, will submit its non-binding bid for the airport by May 30. However, the company's CEO, who visited Belgrade earlier this month, has already outlined some of its plans. The bid will include major infrastructure development at the airport, as well as a strategy to significantly boost the number of Chinese tourists visiting Serbia. Hainan Airlines, which is part of the HNA Group, plans to launch services to the Serbian capital this September.

The Mayor of Belgrade, Siniša Mali, noted, "There are currently two Chinese companies bidding for a concession of Belgrade Airport. We have held talks with both of them and may the best one win. However, Belgrade is currently the only city in this part of southeast Europe which has nonstop flights to North America, and soon direct services to Beijing. If a Chinese company wins the concession tender, it will be of great importance for us, because we will be able to develop the airport at a much quicker pace and welcome in a significant number of Chinese travellers". The other Chinese company bidding for Belgrade Airport is believed to be the Shenzhen Airport Group. The HNA Group has already signed a letter of intent with the Serbian government for the establishment of services and the set-up of a flight training centre in the country. The HNA Group has been among the most acquisitive players in a wave of overseas investments by Chinese companies in recent years. Last year alone, HNA purchased Brazil's third largest airline Azul, Swiss airline catering company Gategroup, and stakes in airlines such as Virgin Australia and Portuguese national carrier TAP.

Meanwhile, the Serbian government has made a second extension to a deadline for the submission of non-binding bids for the 25-year concession to operate Nikola Tesla Airport. The deadline has now been extended until May 30. The original date was fixed for April 13. "The public body (government and airport management) decided to extend the deadline to allow qualified participants sufficient time to prepare all of the required documentation", the airport said. The government expects for the airport deal to be worth around 400 million euros. Last week, Belgrade Airport reported a rise in its net profit of 21% to 6.8 million euros during the first four months of the year. Operating income rose 11% to 22 million euros, with the highest rise in revenue registered from aircraft de-icing services. Gross profit amounted to 7.9 million euros, up 18%.

Eurowings to promote Croatian tourism


Lufthansa subsidiary Eurowings, which has expanded significantly across Croatia this year, has applied stickers to one of its Airbus A320 aircraft promoting Croatian tourism. The Stuttgart-based jet will fly across Europe featuring the special markings advertising both Croatia and Istria in English and German with the slogan "Full of Life". The aircraft is a frequent visitor to the country and has operated services from Stuttgart to both Split and Rijeka over the past few days. Recently, the Croatian Ministry for Tourism said Eurowings is considering opening a base in Rijeka next year as well as services to the island of Brač.

Photo credit: Robin Langfelder and Ramin