Monday, May 22, 2017

Emirates gears up for Zagreb launch

Preparations for Emirates' much anticipated new daily service between Dubai and Zagreb are in full swing, with the airline to reveal further details for its upcoming inaugural flight, scheduled for June 1, later this week. The airline has modified its equipment on the route from the initially planned Boeing 777-300 aircraft to the B777-300ER. Although the two feature roughly the same capacity, the extended range version of the jet boasts a refurbished three-class product, including the airline's signature first class suites. The aircraft rostered on to operate flights to the Croatian capital are fitted with Emirates' newest configuration of this type. It will bring over 5.000 weekly two-way seats into the market.

Apart from offering nonstop flights to the Croatian capital, Emirates also expects to attract a significant number of travellers from Slovenia on the route. The Slovenian Tourist Board has also recognised the potential of the new service and is working together with Emirates in boosting the flow of Gulf tourists to Slovenia. "The new flights will not only benefit travellers in Croatia, but also those in neighbouring Slovenia and even the southern regions of Hungary and Austria making it more convenient to travel with Emirates to Dubai and beyond. Visiting the airline’s home of Dubai for leisure or business, in a choice of three different cabins, on a modern, wide-body aircraft, is now a viable option. Onward travel to Shanghai, Beijing, Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur, or Sydney, Melbourne, Maldives, Seychelles and Sri Lanka can all be reached with less than four hours’ transit time", Emirates’ Executive Vice President and Chief Commercial Officer, Thierry Antinori, said.

Emirates to offer upgraded first class cabin on Zagreb route

The airline has forecasts an average cabin load factor of between 70% and 80% on the new route and expects solid occupancy both during the peak summer and slower winter months. "We are introducing this service because of the firm belief that Croatia has strong economic potential, especially in the tourism sector. Croatia has a solid diaspora in the Middle East and Australia, while this service will link Zagreb with forty cities in the Middle East, Asia and Africa", Mr Antinori noted. Zagreb Airport estimates the flights will bring in an extra 80.000 passengers in its first year of operations. Emirates' Area Manager, Martin Gross, recently told EX-YU Aviation News that the carrier has already seen "keen interest from travellers from the Far East" for the new route. Accordingly, Emirates has offered competitive fares out of Zagreb to markets such as China, South Korea and Japan during the high season, rivalling both Qatar Airways and Turkish Airlines for the same passenger base. In the last year, an estimated 330.000 travellers flew between Zagreb and markets across the Middle East, Asia and Australasia. These passenger flows are dominated by direct and indirect flights by Qatar Airways and Turkish Airlines which account for 71% of this demand.

PHOTOS: Belgrade Airport overhaul


The overhaul of Belgrade Airport's Terminal 1 (T1) building is nearing completion. The reconstruction includes the addition of new check-in desks, commercial space and a new baggage sorting facility. The ground floor of the terminal now also features a view of the apron. Together with the recently renovated hall connecting its two terminal buildings, which will also have check-in counters, the airport will boast 33 new check-in desks, including 28 standard ones and five self check-in counters for passengers to use at their disposal. Previously, work on the overhaul of T1's passport control area was completed. The terminal is currently used exclusively by low cost airlines, Air Serbia's dedicated charter brand Aviolet, as well as other leisure carriers for check-in purposes and immigration. Both Terminal 1 and Terminal 2 share a joint departures lounge and gates. Later this year, the airport plans to begin work on an observation deck at Terminal 1 and the overhaul of its remaining four gates.

Planned new look upon completion

Nesma schedules Riyadh - Sarajevo service


The Saudi Arabian unit of Egypt's Nesma Airlines will make its international debut next month with the launch of its seasonal service between Riyadh and Sarajevo. The carrier has scheduled and put on sale five weekly flights between the two cities which will run from June 24 until September 24 with a 134-seat Airbus A319 aircraft, featuring eight seats in business and 124 in economy class. The flights are being conducted in partnership with the Al Shiddi Group, a Saudi Arabian investment and development company which also runs the Sarajevo City Center - a business complex, hotel and shopping mall in the Bosnian capital. Further flight details can be found here.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Croatia Airlines crew threaten with strike

The union representing Croatia Airlines' pilots, cabin crew and mechanics, ORCA, has begun preparations to launch industrial action after mediation talks with the company's management failed on Friday over an impasse concerning a new collective bargaining agreement. The previous agreement expired on December 31, 2016 with negotiations taking place since. "All conditions to begin talks over the terms of the new collective agreement were met at the beginning of March and, over the past two months, we have been engaged in a number of meetings with the management which have failed to deliver any results that would improve workers' rights. As a result, we began mediation talks which have, unfortunately, been unsuccessful", ORCA said. A final decision on whether Croatia Airlines' employees will go on strike will be made in late May or early June, the union added.

Croatia Airlines' CEO, Krešimir Kučko, said that the management proposed to extend the terms of the previous collective agreement until the end of 2017 and for negotiations over a new deal to resume after the busy summer season, during which the airline generates the bulk of its profit and revenue. Mr Kučko noted that ORCA came to the negotiating table with 150 demands, which would set the company back 6.7 million euros annually. "All of the demands are of a financial nature. If we, for example, reduce their work hours, it would generate losses for the company because we would have to hire more people. I think their objective was for the mediation talks to fail as soon as possible so they could pressure us into doing something", Croatia Airlines' CEO said.

Croatia Airlines’ staff were involved in their longest-running industrial dispute four years ago. In May 2013, unions staged an eight-day walkout, paralysing the airline and its operations. Staff first held a warning strike, which lasted twelve hours, after which they called for an immediate work stoppage. In 2015, pilots, cabin crew and mechanics also threatened with industrial action but did not follow through with their plans. A potential strike now would come at a delicate time for the airline, as it faces increased competition across the country but also continues to improve its finances and results. Furthermore, the Croatian government is currently in the process of deciding whether to extend the term of airline's existing management team or select a new leadership for the company.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Wataniya Airways plans Sarajevo service

Kuwait's Wataniya Airways plans to commence services to the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina later this year. Sarajevo Airport has confirmed it is in talks with the private carrier which will resume flying from Kuwait City to the Middle East, Africa, Europe and Asia this summer, after it terminated all operations in 2011, two years following its launch. The airline will run services to Sarajevo with one of its seven Airbus A320 aircraft, which will have the capacity to seat twelve passengers in business and 120 in economy class. Talks between Wataniya and Sarajevo Airport's management began last year and are now in their final stages. The exact launch date and frequencies are yet to be announced.

Previously, Kuwait Airways operated seasonal services between its hub and the Bosnian capital in August and September of 2013. Flights ran twice per week with a 232-seat Airbus A300-600 aircraft via Istanbul's Sabiha Gokcen Airport. Furthermore, the US-registered Gryphon Airlines maintained flights between the Kuwaiti and Bosnian capitals in the past, during the high summer months, with a Boeing 767-200 jet. The service recorded strong loads and catered for the diaspora, tourists and American servicemen stationed in the Middle East. Currently, Air Arabia and Flydubai link Sarajevo directly with the Gulf, while Qatar Airways is also due to begin operations soon.

Bosnia and Herzegovina is becoming an increasingly popular destination for tourists from Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar. Arab investors, primarily from Kuwait, are building homes and hotels around Sarajevo and are heavily promoting the destination to middle class families looking for cheaper alternatives to Western Europe, fuelling point to point travel from the Middle East to Sarajevo, particularly during the summer months. Since Bosnia does not have a national tourism authority, unofficial estimates put the total number of Arab tourists to the country between 50.000 and 60.000 a year, with about a quarter buying property in Bosnia. Visitor numbers from the Middle East are believed to have surged 200% in 2016 alone.