Summer 2011 on final approach (Part 1)

Serbia’s main hub, Belgrade International Airport, recorded impressive results in 2010.

All previous records have been broken and passenger numbers rose well above 10% on monthly basis.

Links to previously unserved destinations have been established, more particularly to the Baltics, thanks to Latvia’s national carrier airBaltic. After almost a decade and a half direct air links have been established with Spain, linking both Barcelona and Madrid with Belgrade.

Unfortunately some airlines could not cope with growing competition and had to pull the plug on their Belgrade service.

One of the most shocking announcements came when British Airways announced the suspension of their five weekly flights from London Heathrow.

The decision on cancelling this route was catalyzed by Jat Airways’ impressive summer results on the route. Throughout the summer the airline managed to record an impressive average load factor of 87%. Additionally during the 2010 summer season Jat Airways offered greater flexibility to its passengers by providing them with 9 weekly frequencies.

However, the last nail in the coffin was the announcement of the lowcost carrier Wizz Air that it was launching 4 weekly flights from Luton.  Serbia-United Kingdom market was now dominated by Jat and Wizz Air leaving British Airways with only one option- withdrawing from the market. Passengers can still purchase British Airways’ tickets via their oneWorld alliance partner, Malév.

Another airline that had failed in Belgrade was the Greek carrier Aegean. For decades the Greek market was shared by Jat Airways and Olympic (in all of their previous forms). However in late 2009 the Greek government was revising the bi-laterals it had signed with non-EU countries (which states that only one Greek carrier could operate the flights).

At that time the route Athens-Belgrade was operated daily by Olympic Air (in addition to Jat Airways). The airline was aware that the Greek government could award these rights to their competition, however they felt confident enough to announce their second daily flight.

Unfortunately for them, the Greek government handed over the Serbian market to their competition, Aegean Air.

One of the major disadvantages for Aegean was the lack of an adequate aircraft for the route. Both Olympic Air and its predecessor Olympic Airways operated the route using turboprops. Olympic Airways operated a mix of Atr-42’s and -72’s, where as Olympic Air used their Dash-8’s. On the other hand the smallest plane in Aegean’s fleet was the British Aerospace Avro RJ 100 which was not the most fuel-efficient aircraft.

Even though Jat Airways did not seem as serious competition, mostly due to low frequencies (3 times per week) and large capacity aircraft used on the route, it proved otherwise.

The route proved to be less than satisfactory for the Greek airline. In 2010, for the first time since its foundation, Aegean recorded financial losses. Cost cutting measures were introduced which unfortunately included unprofitable routes, Belgrade being one of them.

After several decades of air service between the two countries, for the first time Jat Airways was left as the sole carrier operating between the two countries. Even though their schedule to Athens did not make any sense, the airline managed to add an additional frequency.

Total number of weekly frequencies went down from 17 (14 on Olympic and 3 on Jat) to 10 (7 on Aegean and 3 on Jat) to just 4 (Jat Airways).

The end result of the 2010 summer season was more than satisfying. Over the course of the three summer months the airport recorded growth well over 10%. Total number of carried passengers rose by 13% to 2.698.730.

As the preliminary summer schedules are rolling out we can see that the 2011 summer season is going to be as exciting as the one in 2010, if not more!

Join me the next time when I will look into more details on what we can expect in the coming quarter of the year.

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2 Responses to Summer 2011 on final approach (Part 1)

  1. JU500 says:

    eff 1 November 2011.
    SX700 1130BRN – 1335BEG 26
    SX701 1405BEG – 1610BRN 26

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