Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Croatia Airlines plans for 2018 fleet expansion


Croatia Airlines has made a definitive decision to add regional 100-seat aircraft to its fleet next year after several delays. The carrier is currently wet-leasing two Bombardier CRJ 1000 jets from Spanish regional airline Air Nostrum on a trial basis until the end of October. The type could be reintroduced next year on a permanent basis. However, the airline has also said it is looking into Embraer and Sukhoi jets, noting that the introduction of a third aircraft type to its fleet, which is currently made up of Bombardiers and Airbuses, would not generate additional costs. The aim of the 100-seaters is to replace the 76-seat Dash turboprops on popular routes during the summer, as well as the larger Airbuses during the winter, when demand for travel is weaker. As a result, this will allow the carrier to lease out its Airbus fleet during the winter months.

Commenting on the future fleet expansion, Croatia Airlines' CEO, Krešimir Kučko, said, "In accordance with the company's development plans, we intend to introduce aircraft of similar capacity to the CRJ 1000 as an addition to our existing fleet. This will bridge the difference in the capacity of our Airbus aircraft, which have 144 to 174 seats, and the Dash 8 Q400 with 76 seats". He added, "The introduction of a third type of aircraft (100-seater) will further optimise the entire fleet and allow even better adjustment to capacity on the Croatian market, which is highly seasonal". The financial lease for two of Croatia Airlines' six Dash 8s expires next year, although the current management plans to extend the leasing agreement.

The future make-up of Croatia Airlines' fleet will depend both on its privatisation process and management. Mr Kučko has said the airline is in contact with financial institutions, as well as investment funds and could draft a proposal to the carrier's majority owner, the Croatian government, over plans to seek a new strategic partner by year's end. A new partner would provide much needed financial backing to speed-up the airline's fleet expansion process. On the other hand, the Croatian Ministry for Sea, Transport and Infrastructure is seeking out potential new CEOs for the airline, which could result in a strategy shift. Mr Kučko is in the running together with former Zagreb Airport General Manager Boško Matković, aviation expert Josip Milošević, the Croatian Tourist Board's Country Manager for the United Kingdom, Tonko Rilović, and ‎the Director of Controlling and Internal Audit at Croatia Airlines Jasmin Bajić. Discussions with the prospective new CEOs are ongoing.

Tivat Airport records strong growth

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Tivat Airport has seen its passenger numbers continue to improve in May by handling 75.922 travellers, a notable increase of 34.2% compared to the same month last year. Between January and May, the airport welcomed 167.449 passengers through its doors, up 16%. Of those, 90.416 were arriving travellers, and 77.033 departing. Tivat Airport narrowly missed out on handling over one million passengers last year, settling for 982.558 instead. Over the weekend, Flydubai launched seasonal flights to Tivat, with 170 travellers on board the inaugural service. Flights will run twice per week until September 25.

MonthPAXChange (%)
JAN14.687 20.3
FEB14.299 0.9
MAR20.208 4.1
APR42.333 18.7
MAY75.922 34.2

Royal Air Maroc considering Belgrade service

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The national carrier of Morocco has expressed interest in launching services between Casablanca and Belgrade, a political delegation from the country told the Serbian government late last week. The Serbian President, who led the talks, said he was pleasantly surprised by the unexpected interest from the Moroccan carrier and noted the that the airline is welcome in Serbia. The Moroccan Ambassador to Serbia, Mohammed Amine Belhaj, said the two countries are in the process of establishing scheduled flights, adding, "Noticing the genuine craze for Morocco among Serbs, our Embassy organises occasional expletory tours for journalists and travel agents to discover our country. The Embassy has also advocated for charters during the spring and summer months". There have never been nonstop flights between Belgrade and any point in Morocco. The north African nation had strained relations with the former Yugoslavia due to the latter's recognition of the breakaway territory of Western Sahara (Sahrawi Republic) as an independent state. However, Serbia reversed the recognition in 2004. Currently, Belgrade Airport is served only by two African carriers on a year-round basis, with Tunis Air maintaining services from Tunis and Air Cairo from Hurghada,

Monday, June 26, 2017

Gulf airlines ramp up Belgrade operations


Carriers from the Gulf region have announced plans to notably increase their operations to Belgrade as a result of growing demand, which will coincide with the upcoming suspension of Air Serbia's Abu Dhabi service. Flydubai plans to increase capacity by 75% on its Belgrade flights, while Qatar Airways is upgrading its equipment and considering introducing an extra three weekly services to the Serbian capital. In a statement, Flydubai said it is adding an additional three weekly flights. for a total of seven, starting this winter season, on October 29. "The additional flights will also allow passengers from Serbia better connectivity to a range of destinations onwards from Dubai. Apart from improving connections to destinations popular with Serbian travellers, such as the Maldives, Colombo and Kathmandu, passengers will also have on offer a new and attractive Flydubai destination - Kilimanjaro".

Last week Emirates said it was looking to work more closely with Flydubai and replicate the cooperation it has with the hybrid carrier on its Belgrade service. Emirates President, Tim Clark, said at the Paris Air Show, "We move around 1.200 passengers a day across the two airlines. For example, they fly to places like Belgrade and there’s quite a lot of people from Australia, of Serbian ancestry going into Serbia. Those passengers fly into Dubai from Australia on Emirates, then transfer on to Flydubai". He added, "Sheikh Mohammed [Chairman of both Emirates and Flydubai] wants this [cooperation] to happen, and when you get that ‘push’ from the shareholder, you get things done”.

Meanwhile, Qatar Airways will add a further three weekly flights, for a total of seven, to the Serbian capital starting October 1, as previously announced. It will deploy its Airbus A320P jet on the route, which features 132 seats, with an improved premium product boasting twelve seats in business class with 180 degree lie-flat capability. However, starting this July. the airline will up capacity on its existing four weekly service from the A320 to its 182-seat Airbus A321 aircraft, with the change already visible in booking systems. Furthermore, according to the "Aviatica" portal, the Qatari carrier is considering adding an additional three weekly services to Belgrade, on top of the already planned increase, which would result in a total of ten weekly flights.

Wizz Air ups EX-YU Budapest frequencies

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Low cost carrier Wizz Air will increase frequencies on its public obligation flights from Budapest to two cities in the former Yugoslavia, which were launched earlier this summer season. Over the upcoming 2017/18 winter, Wizz will add an additional weekly frequency from the Hungarian capital to Skopje and Podgorica, for a total of three per week. The added services will come into effect from October 31. Wizz launched flights from Budapest to Skopje, Podgorica, Sarajevo and Pristina, as well as Tirana, after inking a concession agreement with the Hungarian National Ministry of Development, in order to cover these previously unserved cities from Budapest.