Wednesday, July 26, 2017

HNA Group eyes further EX-YU growth

China's HNA Group, a sprawling conglomerate with interests in aviation and tourism, has underscored its commitment to pursuing transportation and infrastructure development opportunities in the former Yugoslavia. It comes after the company's CEO, Adam Tan, met with representatives from the Serbian, Croatian and Slovenian governments over the past month. Most recently, Mr Tan held talks with Croatia's President, Kolinda Grabar Kitarović, where the two discussed potential investments in the country's airport infrastructure. HNA is believed to be interested in a concession of Osijek Airport. Previously, HNA subsidiary Beijing Capital Airlines planned to commence services between Beijing and Zagreb over the summer, however, the flights were later cancelled. The Chinese Ambassador to Croatia, Hu Zhaoming, said in March that Croatia needed to do more to present its tourist potential to Chinese travellers. "It is important to establish direct flights, as well as simplify and speed up the issuance of visas. In that respect, I would really like for Croatia to approach China in a different way and view it from a different angle".

Mr Tan also held talks with representatives of the Slovenian government, which previously said it expected for flights to China to be established next year after an airline expressed interest to launch services between Xi'an and Ljubljana. Xi'an, in north-eastern China, serves as a hub for HNA subsidiaries Tianjin Airlines and Hainan Airlines, with the latter maintaining an extensive international network from the city. The Slovenian Minister for Economic Development and Technology, Zdravko Počivalšek, said, "We expect that direct flights between the Chinese city of Xi'an and our capital city Ljubljana will be established soon. Connectivity with China will enhance bilateral tourism and people-to-people exchange, which is another very important aspect of our cooperation".

In March 2017, HNA Group and the Serbian government entered into a strategic cooperation framework under which HNA Group will work with the government to establish flights between the two countries, build an aviation training center in Serbia, lease and operate airports, and explore other joint investment opportunities. Mr Tan has held talks with Serbian officials on a number of occasions this year and recently attended the inauguration of Serbia's President. HNA is currently bidding for a 25-year concession of Belgrade Airport, with the company's representatives visiting the airport recently to assess its infrastructure prior to submitting a final offer. Last week, Hainan Airlines launched sales for its upcoming flights from Beijing to Belgrade via Prague, which are to commence on September 15.

Commenting on opportunities in the region, Mr Tan said, "As a leader in aviation infrastructure and related sectors with major assets in Europe, including Avolon in aircraft leasing, Swissport and Gategroup in airport and aviation services, and Carlson Rezidor in hotels and tourism, HNA Group provides much of the airport infrastructure in many European airports, working seamlessly with the host governments. HNA is committed to establishing additional partnerships in Central and Eastern Europe as we continue to build out our business in Europe". HNA Group is a global Fortune 500 company focused on tourism, logistics, and financial services. Since its founding in 1993, it has evolved from a regional airline based on Hainan Island in southern China into a global company with approximately 145 billion dollars in assets, more than 90 billion dollars in annual revenues, and an international workforce of 410.000 employees, primarily across the Americas, Europe and Asia.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Air Serbia posts stronger results

Air Serbia has posted solid operational results for the first half of 2017, with growth registered in a number of key areas, including passenger figures, cabin occupancy and cargo. The Serbian carrier welcomed 1.12 million passengers during the first six months of the year, representing an increase of 3% on 2016 when it welcomed 1.08 million travellers on board its aircraft. Passenger carrying capacity, measured in Available Seat Kilometres (ASKs), stood at a record 1.93 billion, up 16% year-on-year. Air Serbia achieved an average cabin load factor of 70.5% in H1, showing an increase of 3% against 2016, with particularly strong seat occupancy in the second quarter, standing at 73.3%.

The airline’s cargo operations recorded significant double digit growth of 54.6%, with 2.988 tonnes of mail and freight uplifted in the first half of 2017, compared to 1.932 the year before. The growth was fuelled by the airline’s New York service, which sees notable cargo loads. Meanwhile, on-time performance at its hub in Belgrade came in at 88.8%. Some of the major developments at the airline during the first half of the year included an IT upgrade to Sabre, the retrofit of ten narrow-body Airbus aircraft, the launch of flights to Venice and the suspension of its Istanbul route, as well as the first flight in its history operated by an all-female crew. Furthermore, the carrier put into effect its new business strategy, which saw the introduction of new ancillary services such as seat selection, mobile boarding passes and annual Premium Lounge passes. Over the past six months, Air Serbia also marked the 90th anniversary of commercial aviation in the country, the first anniversary of its long haul service to New York, and won the 2017 Airline Market Leader Award from Air Transport World.

Commenting on the results, Air Serbia’s CEO, Dane Kondić, said, “Our operational performance in H1 has been strong across the board, with passenger numbers and cargo volumes both rising since last year. We continued to introduce new products and services during this time by reconfiguring our narrow-body Airbus fleet with new seats and upgrading our sales, boarding and check-in systems to Sabre”. He added, “These developments are designed to strengthen the business in what continues to be a very tough and competitive operating environment. We recently celebrated our 90th anniversary as the national flag carrier and are proud that we are continuing to grow and solidify our position as the airline of choice in Southeast Europe”.

Croatia Airlines rolls out "hand baggage only" fares


Croatia Airlines has begun selling tickets intended for passengers travelling with their hand baggage only. The "FlyEasy" fare is available to book for flights from July 27 onwards and is cheaper than those including checked-in baggage. Fare conditions stipulate that each passenger is entitled to one piece of cabin baggage (maximum eight kilograms and 115 cm). Passengers who select the "FlyEasy" fare but also have checked-in luggage will have to pay extra for each bag. The fee is set at thirty euros for the first bag (up to 23 kilograms and 115 cm) each way on international services and 80 kunas (10 - 11 euros) each way on domestic flights. Last year, Adria Airways introduced hand baggage only fares, while Air Serbia also rolled out such pricing for select European destinations.

Thomson to launch new Podgorica flights


Leisure carrier Thomson Airways will launch seasonal operations to Podgorica next year from three cities in the United Kingdom. The airline will commence services from Birmingham, Manchester and London Gatwick to the Montenegrin capital from May 2018. The airline will face no direct competition on any of its new routes. Flights will run until October 14 of next year.

Further flight details can be found by clicking on the links below. 

RouteLaunch date
Birmingham - Podgorica16.05.2018
Manchester - Podgorica20.05.2018
London-Gatwick - Podgorica23.05.2018

Monday, July 24, 2017

Wizz Air to maintain EX-YU growth

Wizz Air plans to further strengthen its presence in the former Yugoslavia in the coming period with additional flights to Skopje and Podgorica, as well potential new services to Mostar. The airline's Chief Commercial Officer, Owain Jones, told EX-YU Aviation News that the former Yugoslavia continues to play an important role in the carrier's network, which, as of this summer, serves every country in the region. However, Mr Jones conceded that the airline's presence in some markets, such as Croatia, remains limited compared to other low cost rivals. He noted that both demand and costs remain an issue in the country, but added that the carrier recently stepped up its presence in Croatia with the introduction of flights to Osijek, which will be served on a year-long basis.

Wizz Air fleet allocation in 2017

Commenting on its future growth plans, Mr Jones said to "Routes Online" recently, "When choosing new routes our network development team consider a lot of factors, but its principally demand. Is there a population there which wants to travel by air? Our home CEE [Central - East Europe] markets are developing rapidly in terms of GDP between 2.5 and 6.5% each year. That obviously translates directly into growing demand for air travel”. He added, "The market gain in CEE is different to Western Europe. Everybody is scrapping it out on the Western routes and they’re trying to steal passengers from other airlines. It’s a very saturated market in terms of capacity and demand. CEE is completely different".

Wizz Air market position compared to other LCCs in key markets

Following its biggest expansion to date within the former Yugoslavia over the summer, Wizz Air plans to increase frequencies on flights from Budapest to Skopje and Podgorica, which were launched just several months ago. Both routes will be served three times per week, instead of the current two, starting October 31. As EX-YU Aviation unofficially learns, the airline will utilise its 230-seat Airbus A321 aircraft on two out of its three weekly flights between the Hungarian and Macedonian capital cities from May 5, 2018, which will represent an almost 20% capacity increase each week. Elsewhere, the airline is said to be in talks with Mostar Airport over the introduction of flights from Sweden, which could potentially launch as early as this winter, however, the airline has made no comment on this matter.