One hot summer

 

Belgrade airport is still reporting phenomenal results, a trend started with the lifting of Schengen visas for Serbian citizens in December 2009.

Last year the airport handled a total of 2,698,730 passengers which represents an increase of 13% when compared to the 2009 results.

 

As we approached 2011, many wondered if the airport would be able to maintain this amazing trend.

Since January the airport has been recording an average monthly growth of 20%! If this trend continues the airport will come extremely close to replacing Sofia as the third busiest airport in the region, behind Budapest and Bucharest.

With the summer season officially in place, the airport should be more than satisfied with the new frequencies announced by various airlines.

Additional frequencies will be available on routes to Istanbul’s main gateway, Ataturk airport. Turkish Airlines has requested an additional two frequencies which should complement their current daily flights. Once the flights receive government approval there will a total of 14 weekly frequencies between the two cities.

TK 1083 arr. BEG

1-3—- 18:20

TK 1084 dep. BEG

1-3—- 19:15

It will be interesting to follow the developments in the Serbian-Turkish market. In addition to Turkish Airlines, the Serbian national carrier operates this route 5 times per week.

Shortly before the crisis and the liberalization of the Serbian market, Turkish lowcost airline Pegasus was planning on opening up the Sabiha Gokcen-Belgrade route. The original plan was to operate the route twice per week using their B737-800 aircraft.

Currently Pegasus is expanding in the region with Bucharest being their newest destination. It remains to be seen what happens. There is always a possibility of higher frequencies from Turkish Airlines or Jat, or we could see Wizz Air inaugurating flights to Istanbul (probably Sabiha Gokcen airport) once they base their second aircraft in Belgrade. Who knows? Maybe we’ll see Pegasus back in Belgrade as they currently operate summer charter flights from Antalya.

Another recent announcement came from Belgrade’s northern neighbour. Malev has announced that from July 1st it will be adding an additional two frequencies to Belgrade.

In the first couple of months of operations in Belgrade, Malev recorded impressive results. Part of this success was due to the promotional campaign where passengers could purchase tickets for as little as €1! Very soon their Dash-8 aircraft became too small for their daily operations to Belgrade and their Boeing aircraft became a common sight at the airport.

This trend did not continue once the promotional campaign was over. There was a very sharp drop in passenger numbers and the airline was forced to reduce capacity from 68 seats to just over 30 per day. In time frequencies were reduced from daily to 4 times per week.

However, summer 2011 will see Malev operate daily flights until July 1st when the two additional flights will be added. These flights will spend the night in Belgrade with a very early departure in order to provide passengers with decent connections through Budapest.

MA 478 arr. BEG

-2–5– 00:40

MA 479 dep. BEG

-2–5– 04:55

With CSA’s possible withdrawal, Malev should be more than satisfied as passengers who previously used Prague as their transit airport can now connect via Budapest. It would be a great shame to see CSA leave the Serbian market since it has been present there since 1946.

One airline which has announced drastic changes to its Belgrade flights is the Austrian lowcost carrier Niki.

Until the start of the winter season (31.10) the airline will keep its current 6 flights per week. Since the inauguration of its flights Niki has aimed at the large Serbian diaspora living in Vienna. With its upcoming membership of the oneworld alliance the airline has revised its schedule in order to cater for the needs of business and connecting passengers.

VIE-BEG

arr. as HG 8026 at 07:15   12345–

arr. as HG 8028 at 20:00   12345-7

BEG-VIE

dep. as HG 8027 at 08:00  12345–

dep. as HG 8029 at 20:35  12345-7

Both Malev and Niki have remained as the only carriers from the oneworld alliance to offer direct flights to Belgrade from their hubs.

Several months ago British Airways axed Belgrade due to tough competition from Jat Airways and Wizz Air.

With the above mentioned changes Vienna will see up to 7 daily flights operated by three airlines. As of 31.10 departure times to Vienna from Belgrade will be as follows:

    05:15, 07:55, 08:00, 08:10, 15:15, 16:50, 20:35

This particular route is important for both Austrian Airlines and Niki. Vienna is one of the few destinations out of Belgrade where airlines have the opportunity to offer convenient connecting possibilities while relying on the considerable origin and destination market (Serbian diaspora).

While these two carriers fight it out with each other, Jat Airways maintains its double daily flight on the route. Jat mostly aims at the origin and destination market between the two countries. Even if their flights are perfectly timed to offer connections to several ex-Yugoslav cities my personal belief is that they will lose in the long run. Both Austrian Airlines and Niki have expressed strong interest in expanding in the ex-Yugoslav/Balkan market. Austrian Airlines is a very well established carrier in this region, whereas Niki has just begun its own expansion in the region. After launching Belgrade, Sofia and Bucharest the airline has recently announced plans to open direct links between Vienna and Skopje.

Jat’s failure to modernize will result in its demise. The more we see these Austrian carriers expand in the region the less passengers will opt to fly with Jat. Demand between Belgrade and other ex-Yugoslav cities (with the exception of Montenegro) is far from enough to sustain profitable flights. Jat’s daily frequency to the regional cities cannot compare with those offered by its neighbours such as Adria, Malev or even Croatia Airlines. If Jat is unable to compete with these airlines then how can they even think of fighting off airlines which are backed by Lufthansa and Air Berlin?

It’s a race against time for Jat and for it to preserve what is left of its past glory. It seems to me that recently they have adopted a different strategy, one that will see the airline concentrate on fighting off competition at its home base in Belgrade and therefore regain some of the lost O&D market. Some of the recent changes to their timetable include daily flights to Dusseldorf and Athens, a sixthweekly frequency to Istanbul (pending government approval) and an additional 4 frequencies will be added to Paris CDG.

Only time will tell if these changes will prove to be successful. We will have to wait until the end of summer season to know who is the real winner and who is the real loser in Belgrade.

Dots vs Rings

As previously announced, on the same day Jat Airways will be adding frequencies to Athens, Olympic Air will be launching the same route.

 

After a little more than a year, competition is back on the Serbian-Greek market. Today we will take a closer look at what kind of competition we can expect to see on this route.

 

Let’s start by looking at their summer schedules.

Jat Airways

JU438: Belgrade – Athens
12—-7  07:05-09:40            JU439 10:30-11:05
–3—-   10:20-13:00                    14:45-15:20
—45–  17:35-20:05                     20:55-21:30

Olympic Air

OA 391: Athens – Belgrade
123–6- 08:30-09:25              OA392 10:20-12:40

OA 393: Athens – Belgrade
—45-7 16:20-17:15               OA394 17:50-20:30

As usual Jat Airway has shown their inability to provide a consistent schedule which will enable people to connect to Athens via Belgrade.

On the other hand Olympic Air has returned with more or less same schedule as the one before the forced withdrawal from the market.

By taking an even closer look at these flights we can see that both airlines are concentrating on the origin and destination market by providing a limited number of connections via their hubs.
Today we will concentrate on Olympic Air and their strategy in Belgrade. The route has been loaded into the system and a return ticket on the route stands at 247.95 Euros. The cheapest class in not offered on the route, just like there is no business class on board.

Their competitor, Jat Airways, charges 211 Euros for economy class, where as business class stands at 272 Euros. This makes Jat Airways extremly attractive on the route as their business class ticket is just 20 Euros more expensive than Olympic’s cheapest economy class ticket.

Not to mention that Olympic Air will be operating the route using their regional, turboprop, Dash-8 aircraft. This will give Jat Airways another advantage as they use a much bigger and more spacious aircraft, with the possibility of transporting cargo.
The only possible connections in Athens are for the domestic routes and Cyprus. Domestic routes start at 362 Euros, where as Larnaca starts at 492 Euros.

Jat’s route to Larnaca is notorious for being too expensive. If Olympic Air was really interested in stealing some of the passengers, then they are doing it really badly. For example a return ticket with Malév via Budapest costs 412 Euros where as Austrian Airlines charges 327 Euros for the same flight. So in this case, the fastest and shortest route is the most expensive.

So what future does Olympic Air have in Belgrade? In the past year competition became so fierce that even Jat Airways had to reconsider their business plan. To me it seems as if Olympic Air returned with exactly the same kind of strategy Olympic Airways had. However back in those days Belgrade was far from the competitive market it is today.

This is one of the rare times when we can see Jat Airways have more potential on a certain route when compared to their competition. Usually the airline lacks frequencies, adequate schedules, competitive prices… However with six weekly frequencies Jat can offer flexibility to its passengers, the ticket is affordable, it allows up to 30 kilos of baggage, above average business class product etc.

For some the ticket might seem as a bit too expensive for this 1h40 min flight, however we have to understand that this route sees a lot of business passengers who do not mind paying a bit more.

With Jat’s above average business class product and a very attractive prices, Olympic Air might struggle to keep up.

If Olympic Air wants to become more competitive on this particular market then it needs to take radical measures. Some of these include lowering their ticket price to below 200 and upgrade the route to A319 with a business class product.

Otherwise Olympic’s success in Belgrade might be over before it began.

The dots are on the move

As announced during the Belgrade tourism fair Jat Airways will be launching direct flights from Belgrade to Croatia and Spain this summer.

Naturally, since the airline in question is Jat Airways, the announcement could not be complete without a major flaw.As always we will take a closer look at the logic (or the lack of) in the newly announced flights.

 

Belgrade-Dubrovnik

The announcement of flights to Dubrovnik came as a small surprise to me. I always expected Jat to announce flights to Pula before any other city in Croatia.

However, if we look back, we can see that Dubrovnik Airline was the first airline to raise its voice when it came to these flights. This announcement catalyzed talks between Croatia Airlines and Jat Airways in launching flights between the two countries.

Here, we can witness the real power of money and how with just one announcement two decades of stalemate turned into synchronized timetables.

One can suppose that the actual reason why both Croatia Airlines and Jat Airways rushed to open up these routes is simply to block the entry of Dubrovnik Airline.

With both airlines having regional aircraft in their fleet, means that they can offer frequencies rather than capacity, something Dubrovnik Airline can not do.

Unless Dubrovnik Airline is really keen on entering the market and getting a share of the passengers it will need two things: good cooperation with travel agencies and good reserves of cash (just in case).

 

 

It’s worth mentioning that Dubrovnik Airline is a rare airline in the region of ex-Yugoslavia to record a profit.

 

 

We can start assuming that the un-holly alliance between Jat Airways and Croatia Airlines claimed its victory in Dubrovnik. Dubrovnik Airline announced that tickets would go on sale from the 15th February, however no additional announcement has been made since then. Either the airline has rescheduled the flights to a later date (and with it the sale) or they simply understood that the market is not ready for three carriers to fly between the two cities.

Maybe if Dubrovnik Airline had kept their plans more secret it would not give enough time for the two state carriers to meet and find a solution on how to cooperate.

No matter what happens it will be the passengers who will profit in the end as now there are four weekly frequencies from Belgrade to Dubrovnik.

Belgrade-Girona

From the 23rd of April Jat Airways will be flying to Girona in Spain. Below you can find the announced schedule:

Belgrade-Girona
JU 254  -2—6-   17:30-20:10

Girona-Belgrade
JU 255  -2—6-   21:00-23:20


With the current uprisings in northern Africa countries like Spain have seen a sharp rise in bookings for this summer season.

As Serbia is no exception to the rule, Jat Airways will be introducing new flights in order to meet the growing demand.

 

 

Even though these flights are mostly introduced for the tour operators, tickets can be purchased for around 200 Euros. Girona is located some 70 kilometers north of Barcelona, hence why Jat hopes to attract some of the Barcelona-bound passengers.

However, Jat Airways will face competition from Star Alliance member Spanair, which will operate three flights per week from Belgrade to Barcelona’s El Prat airport.

It will be difficult for Jat Airways to compete with Spanair which has a better in-flight product, cheaper fares and flies directly into Barcelona.

On the other hand, Girona is Ryanair’s base and the airport is used by lowcost airlines. Jat Airways will be the only non-lowcost airline with scheduled flights out of the airport.

One might think that it will be a good way for Jat to enter the Spanish market before Wizz Air does (as they operate numerous flights from eastern Europe to Spain). However, just like Spanair, Wizz Air operates into Barcelona’s main airport, El Prat, located on the outskirts of the city. This leads us to one conclusion, this will be a purely charter flight.

Since the flight to Girona is going to be introduced for the tour operators, filling the aircraft with tourists, why fly them during such decent hours? I know it might sound harsh, but charter flights are not Jat’s priority, scheduled flights are.

In my opinion it would be wiser to reschedule these flights to after midnight. In their place revise the triangle flights from Belgrade to Tel Aviv via Larnaca.

This summer Jat will be flying six times per week to Cyprus. Out of the 6 flights, 2 continue to Tel Aviv with the arrival time in Belgrade scheduled at an ungodly hour (04:15).

The other 4 flights depart Larnaca at 11:05 and are mostly filled with passengers coming from Dubai. Jat Airways has been recording good loads from Larnaca, even if the cheapest ticket stands at 280 Euros.

What I propose should have been done is to use the two weekly flights to Tel Aviv, departing at 18:25, and reschedule them only to Larnaca.

Belgrade-Larnaca
JU 068  –3—7  18:25-21:45

Larnaca-Belgrade
JU 069  –3—7  22:30-23:50

 

With the flights scheduled as above, Jat can have the arrival to Belgrade moved from 04:15 to 23:50. At this point they can schedule the flight to Girona to depart Belgrade in the following way:

 
Belgrade-Girona
JU 254  1–4—  00:30-03:10

Girona-Belgrade
JU 255  1–4—  04:00-06:40

 
With flights organized in such a way, Jat Airways would have better fleet utilization. Their aircraft would be used as much as possible in stead of sitting on the tarmac for several hours after its arrival from Tel Aviv and Larnaca.
If Jat had a better timetable, by offering morning departures to ex-Yugoslav cities, they could offer connections to Girona via Belgrade.

As for the Tel Aviv flights, they should be granted the Girona slots in stead of the current ones. This means that flights to Tel Aviv would depart Belgrade at 17:30 in stead of 18:25.

 
Belgrade-Tel Aviv
JU 070  -2—6-  17:30-21:30

Tel Aviv-Belgrade
JU 071  -2—6-  22:10-00:10

 

The flights to Tel Aviv would see the same changes as Larnaca. Both flights would arrive at decent times making it possible for Jat Airways to schedule charter flights before 01:00.

 

 

As always, we will have to wait and see how things develop!

Olympic Air returns to Belgrade!

 

 

Athens based Olympic Air will be returning to Belgrade! After a decision to revise its network and consolidate its position as the dominant carrier in South-Eastern Europe, Olympic Air will be introducing numerous changes to its flight schedule.

 

Among these changes is the reintroduction of the Athens-Belgrade route. The airline was forced to withdraw from this market after the Greek government handed over the route to its competitor Aegean Air (A3). You can read more on this story here:

Frequencies have not been announced, however the launch date has been set as 27th March.

Interestingly, Jat Airways has announced that it will be adding additional frequencies on its Belgrade-Athens route the very same day.

Below you can find Jat’s published schedule for the week 27.03-03.04

Departure from Belgrade:

123—7  07:05 (arr 09:40)

—4—    17:30 (arr 20:05)

—-5–    17:55 (arr 20:30)

It will be very interesting to follow Olympic Air’s return to the Serbian market. Shortly before their withdrawal the airline was planning on upgrading the route to a double daily flight. However at that time Jat was their only competition flying just three times per week.

Now, with almost daily flights, Jat Airways will be putting up a fight in order to survive on this market. One of the possible advantages that Jat Airways might have is that it operates the route using a Boeing 737-300. With this plane, Jat will not only provide more comfort to its passengers but will also give its passengers the choice between business and economy class. If Olympic Air decides to launch the route with the Dash-8 it will not be able to provide a business class product or to match the comfort of the 737. However one of the advantages of Olympic’s Dash-8 is that it offers less capacity (68 seats), which means that it will be easier for them to add new frequencies. in the future

So what can we expect from Olympic Air’s return? Could we see Olympic upgrading this route to an A319? Price war? Cooperation by synchronizing their schedules? Code-share?

There is a possibility that these two airlines might create a duopoly, which would prevent them from entering a price-war.

 

 

No matter what happens, best of luck to Olympic Air!

Directly from Bern to Belgrade

 

 

 

 

 

From 1st November 2011, flights linking the capitals of Serbia and Switzerland will become reality.

SkyWork of Switzerland will be launching two flights per week from Bern to Belgrade. Flights are to be operated every Tuesday and Saturday.

Bern-Belgrade
SX 700 11:30 – 13:35
Belgrade-Bern
SX 701 14:05 – 16:10

The sale has already begun and a return ticket costs 118 Euros (59 Euros one way).
Interesting fact is that Croatia Airlines will be launching flights from Dubrovnik to Belgrade, a considerably shorter flight, yet they charge much more than SkyWork.

I guess it is nothing more than the Balkan way of running an airline.

Best of luck to SkyWork!

Wizz Air lands in Belgrade!

Wizz Air opens its newest base in Belgrade!

From the 1st of April 2011 the airline will be opening its newest base with a total of 9 routes!




1. Brussels Charleroi -2----6-
   W6 4081 15:25-17:45
   W6 4082 18:10-20:20

2. Dortmund -2-4-6-
   W6 4091 05:40-07:45
   W6 4092 08:30-10:30

3. Eindhoven ---4-6-
   W6 4071 11:00-13:15
   W6 4072 13:45-15:55





4. Gothenburg City Airport ---4-6-
   W6 4205 16:40-19:10 (Thursday)
           17:55-20:25 (Saturday)
   W6 4206 19:40-22:00
           20:55-23:15

5. London Luton 1-3-5-7
   W6 4001 05:40-07:30
   W6 4002 08:15-11:55




6. Malmö 1-3-5--
   W6 4209 12:30-14:45
   W6 4210 15:15-17:25

7. Memmingen -2---6-
   W6 4105 11:00-12:45
   W6 4106 13:15-14:50

8. Rome Fiumicino -2---6-
   W6 4141 20:50-22:20
   W6 4142 22:55-00:30

9. Stockholm Skavsta 1-3-5--
   W6 4201 17:55-20:30
   W6 4202 20:55-23:25

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!