Friday, June 22, 2018

Ljubljana Airport unveils future plans

Ljubljana Jože Pučnik Airport is targeting the launch of new routes in four markets and is preparing for the construction of its new terminal building by year's end. The airport's General Manager, Zmago Skobir, told "Airport Business", "We are constantly working on the Gulf area, so we are very active in this respect. It is one of the most important goals not just for Fraport and the Slovenian National Tourism Board, but also for the country and the airport itself. The more direct lines, the more investors there will be, as well as more tourists. So, the Gulf is our priority, but we would also like to add more flights from Italy, Spain and Scandinavia to our network”. He added, "Germany is also one of the most important countries for Slovenia, as our biggest export partner. That’s the reason why Adria Airways and other carriers will introduce flights to the northern part of Germany, while easyJet will commence services from Berlin Tegel this summer”. Starting tomorrow, Japan's largest carrier, All Nippon Airways, will resume its summer charter flights to the Slovenian capital, deploying its Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft for the first time. "Even though Slovenia is a small country, it is the best place for travellers from Asia to start their journey and continue to our neighbouring countries", Mr Skobir said.

Last year, the airport launched a new expansion project, centred around the extension of the existing passenger terminal, in order to avoid a capacity-crunch, caused by a growing number of passengers and a changed traffic structure. One of the biggest challenges is completing the new terminal extension by the 2020 summer season. “The new terminal will allow us to serve peak traffic periods better, as well as future-proofing the airport for the next fifteen to twenty years, resulting in an improved experience for passengers and airlines", Mr Skobir said. A total of 10.000 square metres will be added, including a new departure hall with 22 check-in counters, five security lanes, three baggage reclaim carousels, a new baggage sorting area, a large duty free shop, a new premium lounge, as well as an overhaul of food and beverage and promotional areas. This will significantly increase capacity from 500 to 1.280 passengers per hour. Currently, the terminal is in the final stages of its design, and a tender call for the facility's construction is expected this year. Mr Skobir is positive that work on the new terminal will start by the end of 2018.

Ljubljana Airport also plans to put a greater emphasis on cargo flights in the coming period. “Our airport is becoming an increasingly important logistics hub. Novartis, one of the biggest pharmaceutical producers, is finalising its European warehouse here. Cargo-partner has started building a big warehouse near the airport. Other international companies are also recognising this area as a future potential hub and consolidating centre”, the General Manager noted. In March, American Airlines Cargo added Slovenia as a new offline market whereby cargo is trucked from Ljubljana Airport to nearby European destinations already operated by American Airlines. “There is decent tonnage from Slovenia, with a range of exports including pharmaceuticals, gambling machines and other electrical goods. Slovenia is a little hi-tech bubble", American Airlines' Cargo Regional Sales Manager, Richard Hartmann, said.

During the January - May period, Ljubljana Airport welcomed 654.411 travellers through its doors, an increase of 15.4%. Movements were up 3.1% to 13.687, while the amount of processed cargo stood at 5.032 tons, up 9.1%.

Serbia and Iran ink air deal


Serbia and Iran have concluded a bilateral Air Service Agreement, regulating flights between the two countries which were resumed in March following a 27-year hiatus. The Serbian Minister for Construction, Transport and Infrastructure, Zorana Mihajlović, said the deal will act as a framework for commercial cooperation between Air Serbia and Iran Air. The Iranian national carrier, which maintains two weekly flights between Tehran and Belgrade, said, "We hope to expand this operation [to Belgrade]. We could introduce some additional flights from other Iranian cities and we hope to establish good relations and cooperate with Air Serbia". The agreement was signed yesterday at the sitting of the Iran - Serbia Joint Economic Committee. The meeting was attended, among others, by the Iranian Minister for Industry, Mohammad Shariatmadari; the Senior Advisor to the Managing Director & Vice President of Mahan Air, Mehdi Aliyari; and representatives from Iran's largest tour operator Iran Markaz.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Zagreb Airport unveils 2019 plans

Zagreb Airport expects to handle 3.5 million passengers next year and secure two new long haul routes, following the success it has had in attracting high-profile carriers so far in 2018. The airport's General Manager, Jacques Feron, told the "Nacional" weekly, "Next year we hope for flights between Montreal and Zagreb to be launched. We also anticipate to finalise talks over the arrival of a Chinese carrier because Croatia is becoming of growing interest to Chinese tourists. There is also an increasing number of Chinese investments in Croatia and we believe that we will be able to find a common ground for the introduction of flights from a Chinese city". This year, Air Transat will run a total of four one-way flights from Zagreb to Montreal, as a stop on its scheduled service to Toronto. The airline has told EX-YU Aviation News that "those are being operated as additional flights that have been added for operational reasons, to support our tours and packages in Zagreb".

Mr Feron noted that high-profile carriers are increasingly interested in Zagreb in part due to the opening of its new passenger terminal last year. "Emirates is one of the airlines that launched flights precisely as a result of the new passenger terminal because the old facility was not up to their standards. Emirates' arrival is important for Croatia because Zagreb has become an interesting point linking Europe with Asia and Australia. In addition, Croatia has become an appealing destination for Arab businesspeople". He added, "Air Canada has launched flights from Toronto, the second Canadian airline after Air Transat to serve the city, while this autumn we will see Korean Air commence services from Seoul, which will open up the Asian market from Croatia".

Zagreb Airport expects to see continued passenger growth in the year to come, with 3.5 million travellers projected to be handled in 2019. "Our trends are encouraging and I honestly hope that the coming years promise to bring us even more new carriers and passenger growth. The only issue that could hinder that is the rising price of fuel on the world market, which has a negative effect on airlines and acts as a deterrent in investing in new routes", Mr Feron noted. He added, "Croatia is attracting more tourists than before and Zagreb is becoming an increasingly appealing destination. More and more travellers are deciding to spend a few days in the Croatian capital before heading to the coast, which is reflected in our figures. More passengers results in more new carriers, making Zagreb more interesting".

AtlasGlobal launches Sarajevo charters


AtlasGlobal has commenced scheduled charter flights between Antalya and Sarajevo this week, marking its return to Bosnia and Herzegovina after suspending its scheduled service from Istanbul last year. The Turkish carrier will maintain two weekly flights between the two cities, each Monday and Thursday, in cooperation with the Centrotours tour operator. All flights will be operated by the 216-seat Airbus A321 aircraft and run until mid-September.

Regulator okays Belgrade Airport takeover


The Serbian Commission for Protection of Competition has approved the takeover of Belgrade Nikola Tesla Airport by France's VINCI Airports. The regulator permitted the market concentration, as VINCI Airports Serbia, the company's local subsidiary, has not done business in the country so far. VINCI signed a 25-year concession agreement for Belgrade Airport worth 1.2 billion euros this March. On July 9,the airport's minority shareholders, which hold a 16.9% stake, will vote to approve the concession deal, while VINCI is expected to take over in late September. VINCI Airports Chairman, Nicolas Notebaert, said, "We have undergone a great diversified wave of acquisitions lately and we believe all these newly-acquired airports have great potential, whether it is Belgrade, Belfast or the Airports Worldwide portfolio. Belgrade is an important acquisition for us and will become our gateway to the Balkan region”.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Air Serbia eyes profitability on long haul service

Air Serbia will mark two years since the launch of its flagship route between Belgrade and New York this week with the airline increasingly looking at improving the route's profitability. The carrier has noted that the service is a long-term commitment which will take several years before it reaches its full potential. "It is a long-term game, especially for us since we are a non-aligned carrier flying across the Atlantic. We can't get as quick a traction as other carriers who are part of SkyTeam, Oneworld or Star Alliance because they are part of a club that works together. We have to make it work based largely on our own efforts but we are making great progress", the company said last year. Earlier this month, the Serbian President noted, "Can you make money on flights to New York? Of course you can't. We will be able to do that in about a year or two when three to five years have passed since the route's launch".

The carrier has also generated revenue on the service from alternative streams such as cargo. Its uplift capacity to JFK, which is fifteen tonnes per flight on the Airbus A330, is in high demand. It transports a wide variety of goods to the US and onwards to Canada and countries in South America, including textiles from Romania, Italy and Turkey, automotive parts and gaming industry machines from Bulgaria, and Serbian fruits and vegetables, to name a few. From the other direction, there are regular shipments of cargo from Ecuador and Argentina being sent to the region. On the passenger front, the airline recorded an average cabin load factor of 75.6% in both directions combined for the whole of last year, carrying 72.257 passengers on the route while offering 95.614 seats. The airline sees slightly more travellers heading from Belgrade to New York although passenger numbers in both directions are largely even.

Air Serbia Belgrade - New York - Belgrade performance 2017

MonthPassengers carriedLoad factor (%)

Source: Bureau of Transportation Statistics of the United States

Ethnic travel agents in the United States have said the route has been largely a success. Travel agency Axioma Travel, which caters to the ethnic market and diaspora from the former Yugoslavia in the US, told EX-YU Aviation News, "It's hard to believe we are already in the third year of selling these flights. This year's schedule is the most ambitious yet with six flights planned during the busiest season. Air Serbia has done a remarkable job of maintaining an on-time schedule with just one airplane, and only a handful of delays over the two-year period, most caused by weather. The challenge this year will be even greater as just one major delay on Monday could create a domino effect all the way through Saturday". The agency's head, Fedja Stepanovich, added, "Obviously, for New York passengers, the non-stops flights are preferred almost always. But beyond NYC, it's been a tale of two types of cites (to paraphrase Charles Dickens), the ones with no one-stop flights to Europe such as Cleveland, Phoenix and Tampa, and the others with established flights to Europe such as Los Angeles, San Francisco and Chicago. Ethnic travellers living in the former cities are very excited about flying Air Serbia and love the fact that they can reach Belgrade with just one stop. They almost always insist on Air Serbia. However, the latter try to avoid having to connect in the US and having to have immigration in New York. They prefer non-stop flights to Europe from their city. For these customers the Air Serbia flights are a very hard sell. They prefer flying with Swiss or Lufthansa, even Air France and KLM. LOT has also been a strong competitor from Los Angeles and Chicago offering good connections and low fares. And of course, Turkish Airlines especially to Skopje, Podgorica and Sarajevo".

Despite Air Serbia's transformation into hybrid full fate - low cost carrier over the past year, services to New York have been largely unaffected by the change. "The transformation to a hybrid model has not really impacted the customers living in the United States. The JFK flights are exempt from the changes seen on the European routes. The only source of frustration we see is the thirty euro [airport] check-in fee, as its not common with transatlantic carriers", Mr Stepanovich said. He added, "Overall the flights have been a success from a customer satisfaction standpoint and are generally viewed very positively in most ethnic communities, especially outside of Chicago, LA, Boston, San Francisco etc".

Mostar Airport in strike warning


Mostar Airport employees are staging a second strike this year, unhappy over their working conditions. The action will take place over two hours this Friday starting at midday. It comes several weeks after the airport welcomed its first scheduled flights from Zagreb, operated by Croatia Airlines, as well as services from Dusseldorf and Stuttgart run by Eurowings. Workers are seeking a new collective agreement as well as additional pay for night shifts, overtime and weekend work, in line with Bosnia and Herzegovina's labour laws. If their demands are not met, Mostar Airport's labour union said it will be forced to enter into a general strike until their conditions are fulfilled.