Friday, August 18, 2017

Hainan Airlines confident in Belgrade success

Hainan Airlines will become the first Chinese carrier to operate flights to Belgrade in 25 years when it launches operations to the Serbian capital on September 15. The carrier is confident its new route between Beijing and Belgrade, to be maintained via Prague, will prove popular with passengers. Speaking to EX-YU Aviation News, the airline said, "Both Chinese tourists and Serbian passengers are equally important to us, we expect that this new route could enhance the exchange of visits between the two peoples. At present, 90% of bookings are generated by Chinese tourists. We hope more Serbian customers will recognise us, and we’d like to see more and more Serbian travellers come to China".

The airline has been granted fifth freedom rights between Prague and Belgrade, allowing it to sell tickets between the two cities as well. "With these rights in place, once the new service is launched, Hainan Airlines can offer round trip services between Beijing and Prague, Beijing and Belgrade, as well as Prague and Belgrade. This is the only fifth freedom route that Hainan Airlines is currently operating. These rights build a convenient air bridge for passengers in China, the Czech Republic and Serbia", an airline spokesperson told EX-YU Aviation News. Although no codeshare agreement has been signed with Air Serbia, the two airlines have a special prorate agreement (SPA) in place and the Chinese carrier is exploring further cooperation. "Currently, Hainan Airlines has signed an SPA with Air Serbia. Passengers arriving in Belgrade will be able to transfer to other European cities with Air Serbia. We are looking forward to having deeper cooperation with Air Serbia", the carrier noted.

Hainan Airlines will operate its service to Belgrade with the 292-seat Airbus A330-300 aircraft, boasting 32 seats in business class and a further 260 in economy. The aircraft features the airline's latest business class product in a staggered 1-2-1 configuration featuring 180 degree lie-flat seats, while all passengers have access to the airline's in-flight entertainment system through personal television screens. Hainan Airlines is China's largest private carrier by both market share and fleet size. The airline is considering removing the Prague stop on its Belgrade service in the future, with the development likely to occur during the 2018 summer season. "It is possible to operate nonstop. Currently we plan to run two flights per week. We will adjust these plans based on market demands. We will evaluate the possibilities whether to increase frequency or operate nonstop before the summer season", the airline said.

Flight details for Hainan Airlines service between Beijing and Belgrade can be found here.

Skopje Airport sees double digit growth


Skopje Alexander the Great has registered its busiest July on record by handling 201.491 passengers, an increase of 16% compared to the same month last year. It marks the first time the airport has handled over 200.000 travellers in a single month. The growth was fuelled by the launch of four new routes during July, as well as an increase in frequencies on several Wizz Air services. The airport is expected to continue to post strong growth in August, aided by the recent boom in traffic as a result of the UEFA Super Cup Final. During the January - July period, Skopje Airport welcomed 1.004.112 travellers through its doors, representing an increase of 7.8% on 2016.

MonthPAXChange (%)
JAN122.521 12.3
FEB105.265 3.0
MAR125.167 3.7
APR148.530 10.0
MAY150.203 1.1
JUN150.935 6.0
JUL201.491 16.0

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Adria considering Kiev flights

Adria Airways is considering introducing services from Ljubljana to the Ukrainian capital Kiev after Dniproavia cancelled its plans to commence flights between the two cities this summer. A source at Kiev's Boryspil Airport has confirmed that advanced talks between Adria and the airport have taken place with flights possible as early as this winter season. The Slovenian carrier itself has previously said it is examining the Ukrainian market. “Ukraine has potential. We are now in negotiations with Ukrainian airports and are exchanging ideas. I cannot go into detail at this moment but we are discussing a direct service between Ljubljana and Ukraine”, Adria's Chief Commercial Officer, Thomas Hoess, said in the past.

Adria's CEO, Arno Schuster, and the Ukrainian Ambassador to Slovenia held talks over the resumption of flights between the two countries earlier this year. The Embassy said Adria had expressed strong interest to launch services to Ukraine, with the two sides discussing commercial cooperation. It was followed up by a meeting between the Slovenian aviation regulator and the Embassy aimed at amending the bilateral air agreement between the two countries which limited flight operations to Kiev and Ljubljana only, excluding other cities in the process. After fulfilling all criteria of the European Union's Visa Liberalisation Plan in May, Ukrainian nationals were granted visa free travel to most EU-member states two months ago, resulting in a significant increase in travel demand. The Ukrainian carrier Dniproavia was to introduce three weekly flights between Kiev and Ljubljana in late June with tickets put on sale, however, the service was cancelled prior to its launch.

Adria last operated flights to Ukraine six years ago when it ran two weekly seasonal services from the Slovenian capital to Kiev. The airline has boosted its operations to key markets this year following a consolidation process in 2016. During the January - July period, the carrier handled 672.905 passengers, representing an increase of 11% on last year. The number of operated flights grew 6%. Adria will enter the upcoming winter season, which begins on October 29, with a fleet of thirteen aircraft. It is also exploring mutual synergies and efficiencies with Darwin Airline, which it purchased in July through its Swiss subsidiary. Mr Schuster recently noted that following Adria's takeover by 4K Invest in 2016, emphasis was put on the restructuring effort, as well as stabilising the business, while this year has been devoted to growth and improvements in service quality. "Of course, the restructuring cannot be completed overnight but we are on the right path", the CEO said.

Belgrade Airport to start work on observation deck


Belgrade Nikola Tesla Airport is soon expected to begin construction of its new open-air observation deck, the airport's Investment and Development Director, Ana Kaludjerović, said. The 420 square metre terrace, which will be partially covered by pergolas, will have the capacity to seat 200 people. It will be located above the C1 and C2 gates. The deck will feature a cafe, a four metre high glass barrier for security purposes, as well as binoculars for better views of the tarmac and runway. Access to the observation deck will be available to both passengers and visitors, as the entrance will be located prior to passport control. "By opening this viewpoint, the airport will once again become a gathering place, and we believe that this development will inspire new generations of pilots, engineers and other aviation enthusiasts", Ms Kaludjerović said.

Location of future observation deck (marked in red)

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Etihad disposes of European investments

Etihad Airways has pulled the plug on its third European equity partner in less than six months after Germany's second largest carrier, Air Berlin, filed for bankruptcy yesterday, raising fresh concerns over the Emirati carrier's future involvement in Air Serbia, in which it holds a 49% stake. Etihad yesterday withdrew its financial support of Air Berlin, which will continue flying with the help of a government loan likely to last it until mid-November. Air Berlin has racked up more than 2.7 billion euros in losses in a little over six years and has net debt of 1.2 billion euros. Etihad bought a 29% stake in the company in 2012. Its two board representatives have resigned from the German airline. In May, Alitalia, in which Etihad holds a 49% stake, filed for bankruptcy. In addition, the Emirati airline recently sold its minority share in Swiss regional carrier Darwin Airline.

Serbia's Prime Minister, Ana Brnabić, said last week that Etihad remains committed to its partnership with Air Serbia despite a review of its investments in Europe. Ms Brnabić noted that recent talks between the government and Etihad Airways went smoothly and that "there is no need to fear for Air Serbia". Air Serbia's CEO, Dane Kondić, also noted last week, "We have a clear commercial mandate and are keenly focused on achieving our business targets as set out by both our shareholders, the Government of the Republic of Serbia and Etihad Airways”. The Serbian airline has stepped up internal consolidation measures in a bid to cut costs in what it says is a "changing competitive landscape". Late last year, the Serbian Minister for Transport, Construction and Infrastructure, Zorana Mihajlović, said, "Any sort of information we receive is discussed, be it positive or negative. It is important for us to always have a plan in place for the future. We have all possible strategies prepared concerning Air Serbia". The carrier currently has a wide-ranging codeshare agreement in place with Air Berlin, covering over fifty destinations.

The strategic partnership agreement between Etihad Airways and the Serbian government, unveiled in August 2013, saw the Emirati airline make available a forty million dollar loan facility which was converted into equity on January 1, 2014. This was matched by an equal funding injection by the Serbian government. The two sides each provided further funding through shareholder loans and other funding mechanisms of up to sixty million dollars to meet working capital requirements and support network development. As a result, Etihad was awarded a five-year management contract for Air Serbia. Bonds issued by an Etihad-related special purpose vehicle that has raised a total of 1.2 billion dollars on behalf of Etihad Airways and some of its key strategic partners, including Air Serbia, nosedived yesterday following developments at Air Berlin.

Etihad said it withdrew funding after Air Berlin’s operations deteriorated at an “unprecedented pace” in recent months. “This development is extremely disappointing for all parties, especially as Etihad has provided extensive support to Air Berlin for its previous liquidity challenges and restructuring efforts over the past six years", the company said. It added, in April this year, Etihad provided 250 million euros of additional funding to Air Berlin as well as supporting the airline to explore strategic options for the business. However, Air Berlin's business has deteriorated at an unprecedented pace, preventing it from overcoming its significant challenges and from implementing alternative strategic solutions. Under these circumstances, as a minority shareholder, Etihad cannot offer funding that would further increase our financial exposure. We remain open to helping find a commercially viable solution for all parties.