Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Croatia Airlines unions warn of "alarming state"

Croatia Airlines' employees have drafted an open letter, the second in three months, addressed to the public concerning the present situation in the company. In it, the unions slammed the airline's management noting that half of all mechanics, a third of all pilots and a quarter of all cabin crew have left the carrier in recent months, resulting in over a dozen of flight cancellations during the past few days. Furthermore, due to the longer time required for aircraft to undergo regular maintenance as a result of a lack of staff, jets have been late in returning back to service, forcing the airline to arrange short-term wet-lease contracts for thirteen different aircraft from three airlines in Eastern Europe since March 23.

In its letter, the Croatian Pilots Union warned, "Due to a lack of mechanics, we will be in this state until May 15 when the last aircraft currently undergoing maintenance is expected to return to service, if there are no further delays. As a result, we have a significant number of flight cancellations. In addition, we have been forced to conclude extremely costly short-term aircraft leases. Due to the management's incompetence, we have lost significant revenue". It added, "Just in the last couple of days we have been forced to cancel eighteen flights, which is almost three per day. Since mid-March there have been only a handful of days when there were no cancellations".

The unions also noted that the recent sale of Croatia Airlines' assets, including its five weekly slot pairs at London Heathrow Airport, have left the company without the necessary resources to overcome its ongoing internal crisis. "Borrowing from the banks has also become difficult under extremely restrictive terms", the union added. Employees have urged the government to select the airline's new management team, which it has been delaying for over a year. "Due to a lack of institutional dialogue, we have been left with no other choice than to communicate our thoughts to the media before we undertake more drastic measures, which we would rather avoid", the letter concluded. Neither the management nor the Croatian government have responded to these latest claims. Croatia Airlines pilots are currently in talks over the future of their collective bargaining agreements after deferring industrial action, which was planned over the 2017 summer season, in order to allow for further negotiations to take place. Croatia Airlines posted strong financial results in 2017, primarily on the back of the sale of its assets.

Qatar Airways hiring in Sarajevo


Qatar Airways is seeking new cabin crew members from Bosnia and Herzegovina in its first employment drive in the country this year. The Doha-based airline will host a recruitment event in Sarajevo on May 5 at the Radon Plaza Hotel (Džemala Bijedića 185) between 09.00 and 17.00 local time. Those interested must register beforehand. Requirements include a minimum age of 21 years, arm reach of 212 cm on tip toes, high school education with fluency in written and spoken English and excellent health and fitness. Benefits include a tax-free salary, international health insurance, complimentary shared accommodation in Doha, thirty days of annual leave and one free return ticket per year to your country of origin. Further details, as well as the application form, can be found here.

Qatar Airways to deploy A330 to Sarajevo


Qatar Airways has scheduled to operate its wide-body Airbus A330-200 aircraft from Doha to Sarajevo on May 29 and June 3. It marks the first time the carrier will send its 260-seat jet, featuring 24 business class and 236 economy class seats, to the Bosnian capital. The change comes due to operational reasons. Qatar Airways currently maintains flights to Sarajevo with its narrow-body A320. The airline has previously said it eventually plans to boost frequencies to daily and up capacity to the A321.

Qatar Airways A330-300 business class cabin

Monday, April 23, 2018

Ryanair to launch Banja Luka service

Europe's largest low cost airline, Ryanair, will enter the Bosnian market this year by introducing flights to Banja Luka. It comes following protracted talks with the government of the Entity of Republika Srpska in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The carrier will introduce two weekly services from Charleroi Airport in Belgium, each Monday and Friday, starting October 29, as well as from Memmingen in Germany from October 30, each Tuesday and Saturday. The Prime Minister of the entity, Željka Cvijanović, has said that "several additional destinations will also be launched" by the airline in the coming period. Tickets for the new routes are already available for purchase through the carrier's website. 

Commenting on the new route, Ryanair’s Sales and Marketing Executive for Belgium, Helene Begasse, said, “We are pleased to announce a new Brussels Charleroi to Banja Luka route commencing this November. This new route marks Ryanair's entry into Bosnia and Herzegovina, and will operate twice weekly as part of our winter 2018 schedule". Ryanair had previously held talks with Banja Luka Airport back in 2006, however, they did not prove successful. Furthermore, the no frills carrier had also negotiated with both Mostar and Tuzla airports in the past over potential services, with flights from Hahn and Weeze suggested for the latter at the time. Ryanair will now serve four markets in the former Yugoslavia. In addition to Bosnia and Herzegovina, it also operates to Croatia, Montenegro and Serbia.

Banja Luka Airport has struggled to attract new carriers over the past few years due to is reluctance to work with budget airlines. Apart from the five weekly flights operated by Air Serbia to and from Belgrade, the airport will see charter services to Antalya from June, run by the Serbian carrier's dedicated charter brand Aviolet. In addition, talks are ongoing over the introduction of charter services to Tivat. The government has been under increased public pressure to secure new flights from Banja Luka Airport following a series of missteps in its management. Banja Luka Airport welcomed 3.064 passengers during the first quarter of the year, down 13.2%.

Further details for the new Charleroi - Banja Luka service can be found here, while additional information for the Memmingen route can be viewed here.

Syria's Cham Wings plans Belgrade service

Syria's largest privately-owned carrier, Cham Wings Airlines, plans to launch flights between Damascus and Belgrade this summer pending government approval. According to the "Aviatica" portal, the carrier has filed a request for a permit with the Serbian Civil Aviation Directorate for three weekly flights, each Monday, Wednesday and Friday, from June 1. Under its planned scheduling, the carrier has requested an arrival time of 13.00 CEST in the Serbian capital, with the return service leaving at 15.00. It is uncertain whether the airline will be granted approval by the Serbian regulator. Cham Wings has been targeted by United States sanctions against Syria. Several thousand Syrians have requested asylum in Serbia over the past few years, while the two countries maintain embassies in each others' capitals.

In a statement to EX-YU Aviation News, Cham Wings Airlines confirmed it was seeking approval for services to Belgrade, noting that it currently maintains flights to Dusseldorf and Munich in Europe (in cooperation with Iran's Mahan Air). In addition, the airline operates scheduled services throughout the Middle East and Africa, including Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Oman and Lebanon with its fleet of four Airbus A320 aircraft. Despite the ongoing civil war in Syria, Damascus Airport has been operating normally in recent years, closing only for several hours two weeks ago when the US, UK and France launched limited air strikes on the country. Other operators, including Syrian Arab Airlines and FlyDamas continue to maintain flights out of Damascus, although all international carriers, bar Mahan Air, suspended services to the country upon the outbreak of war.

Belgrade and Damascus were last linked with a scheduled air service a decade ago. In 2008 Jat Airways suspended flights to the Syrian capital along with a handful of other destinations such as Tirana, Prague, Malta and Tripoli, as part of its cost cutting measures. Services to the Syrian capital operated via Beirut at the time with Jat holding fifth freedom rights on the very short sector. Belgrade Airport has attracted several new carriers this year, including three from Iran, while Russia's Red Wings Airlines also plans to launch operations from Moscow to the Serbian capital this summer. In addition, a number of foreign carriers have increased either frequencies or capacity to the city.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Adria aims to double its fleet size

Adria Airways' CEO, Holger Kowarsch, has said the airline's fleet is too small and needs to grow in order to support its expanding route network. Speaking on the sidelines of the European Regions Airline Association (ERA) conference in Vienna, Mr Kowarsch told the "ATW" Magazine, "I think critical mass for us would be in the range of 25 to thirty aircraft in the future. The market is showing a strong interest in Saab 2000 aircraft. Part of this fleet will operate in our network, while others will be available for charter and our ACMI (aircraft, crew, maintenance and insurance lease) business, which is growing in Europe. Overall, our strength remains our network with 25 routes".

Adria Airways previously outlined plans to add the fifty-seat Saab 2000s to its fleet in March, but later pushed back their entry into service to June. However, the deployment of the aircraft was recently differed again to September. Despite this, Mr Kowarsch believes the turboprops will likely arrive before the third quarter and will be utilised on Adria's seven new routes this summer, as well as several other services within the region. The aircraft will arrive from former Swiss regional carrier Darwin Airline, which was declared bankrupt in December 2017. It was partly owned by 4K Invest, Adria Airways' owner, and branded as Adria Airways Switzerland.

The Slovenian carrier currently operates three Airbus A319 aircraft, three Bombardier CRJ700s and nine CRJ900s, the latest of which is expected to enter into service on May Day. Out of those, Adria operates two CRJs for Austrian Airlines and one CRJ for Luxair under ACMI long-term contracts. The airline recently filled forty additional pilot positions for its CRJ fleet. The upcoming Saabs will be dry-leased, meaning Adria will operate the aircraft with its own crew. Apart from its growing fleet, Mr Kowarsch recently said the carrier would look into adding new destinations in the future on top of its current summer expansion.

TRIP REPORT: Round the world in sixteen days


Submitted by Saša Radovanović

This trip was booked four months in advance. All tickets were bought through airline websites without checked baggage (Garuda has 30kg checked baggage included).

Norwegian (AMS - OSL, OSL - JFK)

Tickets paid: 250 EUR pp (including additional 35 EUR p.p. for meals)

Norwegian has a multi-hub long haul model which they are expanding at an incredible pace. We took the opportunity to fly from their original, first hub. Intra-europe segment was uneventful - just a regular late evening 2h low cost flight. On their signature OSL - JFK route, Norwegian uses both 787-8 and 787-9. The flight we took was operated by the smaller version. Oslo Airport is a generic modern airport yet I do like the wooden finish and comfy feeling you get in their departures hall. Gate area dedicated for departures to US (beside JFK, Norwegian had a flight to Oakland leave half an hour before our flight) is really small and packed. Norwegian uses Terminal 1 at JFK.

On board experience in economy (with paid food) was close enough to what you would get on full-service airlines. Flight duration was around 8h and passengers with an ordered meal were served a post-departure dinner and pre-arrival snack including couple of beverages. IFE had no limitations and on board bar was available for additional purchases. Flights were on time, flight attendants were not the most friendly ones we encountered but in general - I would say that Norwegian is truly value for money.

We selected the middle and aisle seat

F23 gate would be small for a 737 departure, not to mention 787 with US additional screening facilities

EI-LNA getting ready for TATL route

Post-departure meal selection of beef and chicken was offered

Pre-arrival snack

Mood lighting

Hawaiian (JFK - HNL)

Tickets paid: 300 EUR pp

For quite some time I wanted to fly on board Hawaiian since I consider their livery to be one of the nicest ones out there. Even though there were cheaper options (with connection in LAX), we opted for 40 EUR pp more expensive direct, non-stop flight.

Hawaiian's signature JFK route (until recently their longest route) operates out of Jetblue Terminal 5 (Hawaiian has close cooperation with B6). Since taking delivery of A330-200s in 2010 they use the type on this route. Hawaiian reached the headlines recently since they canceled their A330neo-800 order in favor of the Dreamliner.

As far as on board experience is concerned - I would say that Hawaiian fell short (but taking into account the almost ultra long haul nature of the flight and price, can I really complain?). The flight took little bit under 11 hours and during that time economy passengers were served a poor pasta meal and small snack package (with almost 9h between). IFE was very limited with only free content being videos of Hawaii. IFE purchases could only be done with US credit cards. In Honolulu, flights from US West Coast operate to and from Inter-Island terminal. Flight departed and arrived on time.

Delta's second biggest hub in US

Hawaiian, Tap and AerLingus are only airlines operating out of Jetblue's T5

Post-departure meal was probably one of the worst ones we had (and we are not picky when it comes to plane food)

Pre-arrival snack package

Arriving at HNL

HA running the show at HNL with a considerable amount of military movements


Tickets paid: 350 EUR pp (including pre-ordered food)

We flew AirAsia couple of times before (including AirAsia X and Thai AirAsia X) but I was little bit worried about this one (since the total flight time would be just over 17h). In the end I turned out to be okay. AirAsia added Honolulu to their route network in mid-2017. It's their flagship route (flights are numbered D7 1 and D7 2) and since the flight is ultra long haul (alongside Scoot's flights to Honolulu, Berlin and Athens the longest LCC route in the world) and AirAsia operates A330-300 they have to make fuel-stop in Osaka (during which passengers continuing to Kuala Lumpur disembark the plane). They have the freedom of flying passengers on the Osaka and Honolulu sector too. So our itinerary got us flying 9.5h to Osaka, make a 1h45min fuel stop/transfer, then continue 7h to Kuala Lumpur, make a 2h connection for our final leg to Singapore with departure being on Wednesday afternoon and arrival in Singapore on Friday morning. We pre-ordered food on all sectors. It's interesting to see the price difference for meals depending on the leg - the same meal on HNL - KIX leg cost us 16 USD while on KUL - SIN leg it was only 3 USD (AirAsia has special menus only for this route). We had a direct alternative (Honolulu - Singapore via Osaka) with Scoot but it is not possible to buy one-way tickets on this route with them.

AirAsia operates A330s with inch or two more legroom on this ultra-long haul sector (or that's our impression comparing our experience with previous AirAsia's A330s) and since we had seats in the last row of mid-economy section I would say that the only downside to AirAsia was the lack of IFE. AirAsia has a massive order of A330neo and the rumour around is that they will opt for built-in IFE.

Honolulu Airport

AirAsia X on Gate 12 while AA for DFW on pushback

All major US & Canadian carriers at the apron

Checked-in all the way through SIN

I am 1.82 and there is definitely more legroom on this specific aircraft than on previous AirAsia X A330s I had experience with

Classic 3-3-3 layout. Flight had CLF of approx. 70% on HNL - KIX segment, while the CLF on KIX - KUL segment it was 97% (around 75-80 passengers from HNL continued to KUL)

KLIA2 (Kuala Lumpur Terminal 2, almost exclusively used by AirAsia experienced some upgrades since the last time I used it 7 months ago)

Garuda Indonesia (SIN - AMS)

Tickets paid: 240 EUR p.p.

For our final leg, we had theoption of being on stand-by with my employer but we decided to pay a little bit more and have a confirmed ticket. This flight is blocked for 13.5h and I would say that the price is a bargain. Garuda makes a stop in SIN 3x per week on their CGK - AMS route (they operate additional 3x per week directly without a stop and 3x per week triangle route). On-board service consisted of post-departure dinner, mid-flight snack and pre-arrival breakfast. For economy passengers small snack bar was available in the galley throughout the flight. Garuda has 3-3-3 configuration in their economy. Flight was operated by 2-class 777 and there were only 2 empty seats in economy.

Garuda uses Terminal 3 in Singapore.

Post-departure dinner


Pre-arrival breakfast