airBaltic returns to Belgrade!

From April 11 airBaltic, the national carrier of Latvia, will be returning to Belgrade.
airBaltic launched Belgrade last summer with four weekly flights recording an impressive average load factor of about 90%.
The flights were discontinued shortly before the end of the summer season due to the end of the lease on their Fokker 100 planes.

This summer the airline is returning to Belgrade with their new Dash-8 aircraft (pictured above). The airline hopes to capture some of the passengers from Belgrade to Scandinavia and Russia.

Riga-Belgrade 1-3-5-7
BT501 11:05-12:50

Belgrade-Riga
BT502 13:35-17:15

With the announcement of this route and airBaltic’s intention to stay in Belgrade, the national carrier of Serbia Jat Airways (JU) should be worried. Jat has been losing market share at its home base since the Open Skies treaty came into effect last year.
Since Jat can not rely on the Serbian government to revoke the landing rights of airBaltic (as it could have done before the Serbia-EU Open Skies treaty) the airline needs to be creative.

If Jat wants to reduce the damage of these flights it needs to cooperate with airBaltic.
Jat can use airBaltic’s extensive network in Scandinavia and codeshare on certain routes from Riga, mostly on those to which it currently does not fly to.
Routes that could become successful are St. Petersburg, Oslo, Helsinki, Gothenburg, Minsk…

Unfortunately Jat does not have the adequate equipment to provide its passengers with flexibility when booking their flights.
Through cooperating with airBaltic this can be achieved.

I am not advocating that Jat should discontinue their flight to Copenhagen or Stockholm but rather terminate routes such as Gothenburg for example.
If we take a closer look at their preliminary summer schedule we can see that Gothenburg is supposed to be flown three times per week. However, if we take an even closer look, we can see that Gothenburg which is scheduled to be operated three time per week, will be flown twice on Saturday! First departure at 07:55 and second at 08:10!
Flights to Gothenburg are operated via Copenhagen or Stockholm where passengers need to sit in the plane for 40 minutes until the flight is ready to depart again.

If we take a random date in summer and compare the offer on airBaltic and Jat, we can see that Jat charges 270 Euros where as for the same flight on airBaltic via Riga it costs 230 Euros.
Not only is Jat wasting good slots on such a flight but they are overcharging it and in such a way handing over customer to the competition.
By axing Gothenburg Jat could concentrate on destinations such as Stockholm and Copenhagen, especially now that the competition is becoming stronger and stronger.
In Copehagen (the busiest airport in Scandinavia), Cimber Sterling is adding their third weekly frequency where as Wizz Air is flying to Malmö.
In order to survive Jat needs to reconsider its business plan in Scandinavia. For the time being airBaltic is not part of an alliance hence why it is free to cooperate with any airline.

Best of luck to airBaltic!

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