|easyJet speaks to EX-YU Aviation News on Croatia, Serbia and Macedonia operations|
Low cost airline easyJet will embark on a notable expansion on the Croatian coast this summer but will maintain limited operations elsewhere in the former Yugoslavia. Europe’s fifth busiest airline recently suspended all operations in Zagreb and terminated flights between Belgrade and Rome. This will be accompanied by the suspension of its Milan - Belgrade service in late March. Furthermore, the airline did not participate in a recent international tender to launch state-subsidised flights from Macedonia. Speaking to EX-YU Aviation News, easyJet’s spokesman for Europe, Matteo Taddei, says the budget airline will focus primarily on the Croatian coast this summer. “Croatia is an important market for easyJet. easyJet carried nearly half million passengers to and from Croatia during the 2014 financial year (October 1, 2013 – September 30)”. Mr. Taddei says.
This summer season, easyJet will be expanding its presence in Split with the introduction of several new routes. In addition, it will increase frequencies on existing services to Croatia’s second busiest airport. “We will launch five new routes to and from Split in summer 2015 reaching eighteen destinations offered from Split”, Mr. Taddei says. Asked whether the no frills airline will establish a seasonal summer base in the city, similar to the one Ryanair has in Zadar, the airline’s spokesman said, “easyJet constantly evaluates market opportunities but at the moment hasn’t planned to open a base at Split which remains an important market for easyJet. The airline allows Croatian passengers to connect to six different European countries at affordable fares as well as contributes to bringing tourists to the region, supporting the local economy”. The budget airline has also said it won’t be resuming any flights to Zagreb. It discontinued its services from London Gatwick to the Croatian capital at the end of the 2014 summer season. In previous years it had also suspended flights from Paris and Dortmund to Zagreb.
easyJet terminated its three weekly flights between Rome and Belgrade at the start of the 2014/15 winter season after only several months of operations. It faced significant competition from Alitalia and Air Serbia. However, following Etihad Airways’ acquisition of a 49% stake in the Italian carrier, both Alitalia and Air Serbia have agreed to give up some slots on the Belgrade - Rome route in order to meet European Union competition requirements. Alitalia and Etihad also committed to provide further incentives, such as the possibility for a new entrant to acquire grandfathering rights on the route after a fixed period of time. Furthermore, Alitalia and Etihad committed to offering a special prorate agreement, a fare combinability agreement, an interline agreement and access to their frequent flyer program to new entrants, to make entry more likely. Despite the incentives, easyJet has said it will not be resuming flights between the Italian and Serbian capital cities. “We don’t plan to resume those services now”, the airline says.
Unlike its low cost rival Wizz Air, which has played a dominant role in the region, easyJet’s presence in the former Yugoslavia is limited with flights to the Croatian coast, Belgrade and Ljubljana (with a single route this summer) and Pristina. Despite the success Wizz Air has had in Macedonia, with plans to base a third aircraft in Skopje this summer, easyJet will not be launching flights to the country in the coming period and says it is not fazed by competition from Wizz in the region. “easyJet is focused on its successful strategy to expand across Europe and operates in the best interests of the company and its customers ensuring the attractiveness of its network. This means the airline concentrates its efforts on maintaining and developing routes which prove popular with passengers. We consider competition only in regards of tactic opportunities that can be complementary to our strategy”, Mr. Taddei says.