Summer 2011 on Final Approach (Part 5)

In today’s post we continue to look at the changes taking place in Belgrade during the coming summer season. Today’s topic will take a look at changes introduced by the lowcost carriers.

Norwegian Air Shuttle has been flying to Belgrade for several years now. Originally the airline operated flights from Oslo to Belgrade. With their growing network of bases across Scandinavia, Stockholm was added shortly after.

This summer season the usual changes will be introduced. Their Oslo-Belgrade route will be increased from one weekly to two weekly. In addition to their current flight on Wednesday a Saturday flight will be added.

Belgrade-Oslo
–3—-  13:00-15:50
—–6-  20:15-23:05

Stockholm-Belgrade will see an additional frequency, bringing the total to two weekly. The only change on this route is the departure time of the flight on Saturday.

Belgrade-Stockholm
-2—-    13:30-16:05
—–6-  09:35-12:10

Norwegian operates into Stockholm’s Arlanda airport where it will face direct competition from Serbia’s national carrier, Jat Airways. Wizz Air will launch Belgrade-Stockholm Skavsta from the 1st of April after the opening of its base in Belgrade.

Germanwings and Norwegian have been the pioneers of lowcost operations in Belgrade. They have launched flights at a time when Serbian citizens needed visas to travel to the Schengen zone. Today, Germanwings operates flights from Cologne and Stuttgart to Belgrade.

This summer season we will see minor changes in their timetable to Belgrade.

Belgrade-Cologne will be scheduled to fly 4 times per week instead of the current three.

Belgrade-Cologne
1-3—-   13:25-15:35
—-5–   12:15-14:25
——7   15:50-18:00

Belgrade-Stuttgart will be operated three times per week. On this route Jat Airways and Germanwings directly compete with each other .

Belgrade-Stuttgart
-2—–   12:25-14:15
—4—   13:20-15:10
——7   14:20:16:10

Niki, a semi-lowcost airline, will keep its six weekly frequencies from Vienna to Belgrade. By entering the Serbian market Niki had put an end to the duopoly of Jat Airways and Austrian Airlines.

With up to five daily flights on Jat Airways and Austrian Airlines and an additional flight on Niki, ranks Belgrade-Vienna as the most competitive route out of the Serbian hub. However with Air Berlin and Niki’s entry into the oneworld airline alliance things might start to change. With British Airways gone, Malév has been left as the only airline from the alliance to operate flights to Belgrade. Once member, it can attract some of the loyal passengers to both Air Berlin and oneworld travelling to Serbia. Currently Niki operates the route using their Embraer E190 with a capacity of 112 seats.

Finally, as previously announced, Wizz Air will be increasing their presence in Belgrade by opening their base in April. One of their Airbus A320 will be based at airport operating routes to Sweden, Germany, The Netherlands and Italy.

More on Wizz Air’s base in Belgrade here: https://aviationoverview.wordpress.com/2011/02/22/wizz-air-lands-in-belgrade/

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Summer 2011 on Final Approach (Part 4)

Fourth part of the ‘Summer on Final Approach’ will look at the presence of SkyTeam in Belgrade and the changes in the schedule for the 2011 summer season.

The national carrier of Russia, Aeroflot, has operated daily flights for several seasons now. Through a codeshare with Jat the airline offers double daily flights to Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport.

Aeroflot’s main goal in Belgrade, besides the origin and destination market, is to offer flights to Asia via its hub in Moscow. Its main competitors in Belgrade are Turkish Airlines and Aerosvit.

There are no announcements of additional frequencies for this summer season. However as Aeroflot’s A321s are becoming more common in Belgrade, we can hope that new flights will be announced by the summer season of 2012.

Air France returned to Belgrade in 2005 using their B737-3/500, however after having retired this model the airline replaced it with the A318.

Air France currently offers double daily flights between Belgrade and Paris. The morning departure is operated through a codeshare withJat, where as the early afternoon flight, at 12:40, is operated using their own metal.

With the visa liberalization the flow of passengers on the route had increased, resulting in Air France upgrading the route on certain days to A319.

In mid-summer Jat Airways will be increasing Paris from 7 to 11 weekly flights. The additional 4 frequencies are scheduled to leave Belgrade at 13:55 without Air France’s codeshare.

One of the possible reasons Air France will not be codesharing on these flights is that they are seen as seasonal and mostly introduced for the Serbian diaspora living in France. Not to mention that this flight leaves Belgrade just 1 hour 15 minutes after Air France. Regardless of these additional frequencies Air France will keep its codeshare on Jat’s morning flight.

Before its restructuring, Alitalia used to be one of the dominant carriers in Belgrade. The airline operated 4 daily flights from Italy, 1 from Rome and 3 from Milan. All in all, the airline had up to 28 weekly frequencies.

Alitalia’s loss of dominance became Lufthansa’s gain. Even though Alitalia kept its flight from Rome it could not be considered as a major player simply due to a lack of frequencies.

Throughout the winter season it operates 6 weekly flights to Rome which are increased to daily in summer. It also codeshare with Jat Airways on routes from Belgrade to Rome, Milan and Trieste.

15th December 2010 marked the end of Alitalia’s and Jat’s monopoly on the Serbian-Italian market. The lowcost airline Wizz Air launched three weekly flights from Rome to Belgrade. According to the latest statistics, passenger numbers between the two capitals rose by 63%. Wizz Air is not the only one contributing to the positive results, Jat and Alitalia recorded growth of 20%.

Belgrade-Rome sees the weakest form of cooperation between Jat and a major SkyTeam airline. Paris and Moscow both have 14 weekly frequencies where as Rome has only 11 (12 in summer). The reason for this could be that Alitalia had undergone a major restructuring process which saw its network greatly reduced.

With airlines like Wizz Air and Eagles Airlines planning new routes from Italy to Serbia, both Jat Airways and Alitalia will have to reconsider their future cooperation.

Newly arrived competition might not be considered dangerous as according to some they serve a very different market. However what both Alitalia and Jat need to understand is that even if they serve a very different market, they have taken away their monopoly and with it a certain number of passengers.

For a long time Jat Airways with its highly dysfunctional timetable offered 4 flights per week departing at 06:40. With the first regional flight arriving at 07:00 it was next to impossible to offer any connections. However, the 5th frequency, departs Belgrade at 08:00 which is perfectly timed for connections. Unfortunately Jat is no Emirates so I doubt that anyone will organize their trip around that weekly flight.

Looking at the preliminary summer schedules of the three airlines certain changes are very interesting. Jat Airways will fly to Rome 5 timer per week with an improved timetable. Flights will be departing Belgrade at 08:20, perfectly synchronized with the arrival of the regional flights. From the summer season, flights offered by Jat and Alitalia will finally make it possible to connect from Skopje, Sarajevo and Podgorica via Belgrade to Rome.

Wizz Air is also revising its schedule with frequencies being reduced from 3 to 2 per week. Departure time has been moved from 09:50 to 20:50 making this flight far more convenient for passengers coming from outside Belgrade. Wizz Air flies into Rome’s main airport, Fiumicino, with the price of one way ticket starting at 18 Euros.

Czech Airlines CSA launched flights to Belgrade a few years ago using their B737-500. Flights were operated three times per week in cooperation with Jat Airways (this cooperation has been terminated shortly after). With time CSA steadily increased its presence in Belgrade from 3 to 7 to 12 flights per week.

During the summer season CSA will resume its 12 weekly flights. Summer schedule will include a slight modification to the timetable. The flight departing Belgrade at 14:15 (arr 16:15) has been reduced from daily to six times per week. Morning flights has been changed as well.

 

Belgrade – Prague OK837

1-3-5– 05:05-07:05
-2-4-6- 07:00-09:00

 

 

CSA has changed certain departure times out of  Belgrade to 05:05, timing the arrival in Prague shortly before the morning wave of departures.

CSA is the only SkyTeam carrier flying out of Belgrade not codesharing with Jat Airways.

Last but not least, the national carrier of Romania, Tarom, had launched Bucharest-Belgrade flights shortly before the visa liberalization in 2009. With the the 2010 summer season  the airline increased flights from 4 to 5. For now the airline had not announced any change to its Belgrade flights.
Belgrade – Bucharest
RO 212   1-3—-    10:20
RO 214   -2-45—  17:25

Tarom uses its Atr-42 on the route which is in cooperation with Jat Airways.

It is worth mentioning that KLM is present in Belgrade through its codeshare with Jat on the Belgrade-Amsterdam-Belgrade route.

SkyTeam’s presence in Belgrade is not as aggressive as the one of Star Alliance. Additionally Jat Airways has a much closer relationship with SkyTeam members than with the other two alliances. This summer SkyTeam will add little changes to its schedule but nevertheless it will maintain its strong presence at the airport.

Summer 2011 on Final Approach (Part 3)

 

The third part of the ‘Summer 2011 on Final Approach’ will look at the success of the oneworld airline alliance in Belgrade.

 

 

In December 2009 it seemed as if oneworld’s luck in was about to change. The Hungarian national carrier Malév had announced that they were returning to Belgrade after two decades of absence.

On the 14th of December 2009, Malév’s aircraft (Boeing B737-700) landed in Belgrade for the first time since the discontinuation of the service in 1992.

In order to promote the new route the airline had launched a new campaign where people could purchase tickets for only 1 Euro.By the time the airline launched the flights it had a total of 2.000 bookings for December alone, giving it an outstanding loadfactor of 70%.

With the campaign in place, the winter season of 2009 saw Malév operate a wide range of aircraft between the two cities, ranging from Dash-8 to Boeing B737-800.

True success in Serbia would only be shown during the following summer season, that is after the promotion had passed.

During the summer season in 2009, the airline recorded lower passengers numbers. Still, the route was still considered a success.

True blow to oneworld in Serbia came in late 2010 when British Airways announced its withdrawal from Belgrade. The airline was unable to cope with growing competition from both Wizz Air and Jat. Its presence in Belgrade has been reduced to a simple codeshare with Malév via Budapest.

After the initial success during the previous winter season, Malév started to face its own difficulties. They tried to keep the daily frequency by reducing capacity on the rout by replacing their Dash-8 (72 seats) with E120 Brasilia (30 seats). Eventually the airline was forced to downgrade Belgrade to 6 flights per week.

However, the airline is planning daily frequencies for the upcoming summer season hoping to reverse the current trend.

On the other hand, one can wonder if British Airways will be reintroducing flights to Belgrade this summer. There are numerous obstacles which might reduce the chances of their return. Most importantly Serbian citizens still need a visa to both enter and transit in the UK. Jat Airways and Wizz Air have added additional flights this summer in order to fill the void left by British Airways.

Passengers loyal to the oneworld airline alliance will have to travel on Malév this summer season. It would be surprising that any other member of the oneworld alliance would enter the Serbian market at this point.

However, no matter how unlikely it is that any other member of the alliance would place Belgrade on their route map, only Finnair and Iberia could possibly find interest in the Serbian market.

It’s worth mentioning that in case either airline decides to launch Belgrade, a large sum of money would be needed until the route would start making profit. The fact that Serbian market today is not a large one, or that it is far from a high yielding one might make it less interesting to these two airlines.

To make the return of Iberia even less likely, Spanair had been operating flights from Barcelona for almost a year now. During the last summer season, in addition to Barcelona the airline flew twice per week from Madrid to Belgrade.

This summer the airline is planning on keeping three weekly flights from Barcelona, whereas nothing was mentioned regarding the flights from Madrid.

On the other hand, Finnair would probably record enormous losses in Belgrade. This is mostly due to the large number of airlines flying to the two markets relevant to Finnair, northern Europe and Asia. Northern Europe is very well covered by airBaltic via Riga in addition to Jat Airways, Cimber Sterling, Wizz Air and Norwegian operating flights to numerous cities in that specific region.

On the other hand Asia is very well connected by Aeroflot via Moscow and Turkish Airlines via Istanbul. Aerosvit, a newcomer, is trying to steal some of the Serbia-Asia market and re-route it via Kiev.

My personal opinion is that oneworld’s presence in the Balkans (excluding Istanbul and Athens) is very much dependent on Malév and their vast coverage of the region.

As for Serbia, the only oneworld airline that could return to Belgrade is British Airways from London Heathrow.

 

However for the time being oneworld will continue to route its passengers via Budapest to the world.

 

 

 

 

Summer 2011 on Final Approach (Part 2)

In the first part of ‘Summer 2011 on final approach’ we looked at the new routes routes launched and we analyzed why some airlines failed during the Belgrade traffic boom.

With 19% rise in passenger numbers in February, we can assume that the airlines serving Belgrade are more than optimistic regarding the coming summer season.

Today, we will take a closer look at the preliminary summer schedules of the non-aligned airlines (not part of any alliance) and how they are getting ready for the summer.

First one on the list today is the national carrier of Latvia, airBaltic, and their four weekly flights from Riga.

Last summer the airline achieved unexpectedly good results with an average loadfactor of 90%. The airline was forced to discontinue the flights due to a lack of adequate equipment. The lease on their Fokker 100 was expiring in late summer long before the delivery of their new Dash-8.

airBaltic will offer connections to the Baltic states, Scandinavia and Russia via its hub in Riga. The airline offers a business class product, whereas in the economy class section they offer the ‘buy on board’.

You can read the full story here: https://aviationoverview.wordpress.com/2011/02/22/airbaltic-returns-to-belgrade/

In the past Aerosvit operated flights to Belgrade via Sofia using their Boeing B737-400. The weekly flight was mostly for the origin and destination market between Serbia and Ukraine.

With the introduction of smaller regional aircraft such as the Embraer 145 and Antonov 148, the airline was able to increase frequencies by reducing capacity on certain routes, Belgrade being one of them.

After revising their business plan, the airline decided to transform Kiev into a true hub.

The B737-400 was replaced by much smaller E145 (capacity 50 seats) which enabled the airline to increase Belgrade from one to four weekly flights. The initial connecting possibilities via Kiev were limited to just a few destinations within Ukraine  in addition to Tbilisi and Tel Aviv.

Today the following destinations can be reached via Kiev:

Domestic: Dnepropetrovsk, Donetsk. Kharkov, Lugansk, Lvov, Odessa, Simferopol, Uzghorod.

International: Copenhagen, Tbilisi, Athens, Tel Aviv, Almaty, Astana, Krasnodar, Moscow, Rostov, St. Petersburg, New York, Dubai and Tashkent.

With the new, revised summer schedule we can see that in addition to the fourth weekly frequency the airline will have an overnight stop in Belgrade. The stop will enable the airline to have an early morning departure out of Belgrade and in such a way offer better connections in Kiev.

 

Kiev-Belgrade

1—5–  14:30-15:35
-2—6-  22:25-23:30

Belgrade-Kiev

1—5–  16:20-19:15
–3—7  07:05-10:05

 

With this new, revised schedule Aerosvit has become far more aggressive in their operations out of Belgrade. Other airlines with early morning departures include Lufthansa to both Munich and Frankfurt, Austrian Airlines to Vienna and CSA to Prague. Malév was planning on introducing overnight flights shortly before the last summer season. After a sharp drop in passenger numbers the airline decided to postpone the additional flights until further notice.

B&H Airline entered the Serbian market a couple of years ago through a codeshare with Jat. For years now Jat Airways had operated their flights to Sarajevo with an overnight stop. This facilitated connections through Belgrade for passengers travelling between Bosnia and Europe.

However, with one flight per day it was common for passengers to spend several hours at the airport. With growing competition in Sarajevo, most notably from carriers such as Adria, Malév and Austrian Airlines all operating more than 7 flights per week made it obvious that Jat was going to lose the battle.

When Air B&H announced that it was launching afternoon flights to Belgrade, I was personally hoping that Jat Airways would immediately start codesharing on the route.

By fully cooperating with Air B&H, Jat Airways would finally have two daily flights to the Bosnian capital. It was vital for the airline to reduce the connecting time for the passengers in order to become more competitive on the market.

 

Roughly a year after launching the flight, Air B&H had announced the suspension of its service to Belgrade.

With Air B&H gone Jat will not be in a position any time soon to offer the second daily flight. This is mostly caused by a serious lack of aircraft and vision within the management of the airline. Not to mention that Jat has allowed this to happen shortly before the first summer where the citizens of Bosnia can travel without visas.

Cimber Sterling will be adding their third frequency on their Copenhagen-Belgrade route. This summer passengers flying between the two cities will enjoy considerably lower fares due to an increase in competition.

In addition to Cimber Sterling and Jat Airways flying to Copenhagen, the lowcost airline Wizz Air will be operating two flights per week to Malmö.

April 13th 2011 has been set as the date when the Italian carrier Eagles Airlines is set to launch their flights from Forli to Belgrade.

The route is set to be operated twice per week using a Fokker 100. Forli will be the 4th Italian city to have a direct air link with Belgrade after Rome, Milano and Trieste.

 

 

As announced yesterday, the Greek carrier Olympic Air will be returning to Belgrade after a year of absence. For those interested full story can be found here: https://aviationoverview.wordpress.com/2011/03/03/olympic-air-returns-to-belgrade/

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.