A Quiet Cold Winter

 

For the past couple of seasons Belgrade airport has been boasting about numerous new airlines opening up routes to cities that have not been linked to Belgrade previously.

 

Every fan of Serbian aviation will have to deal with the anti-climactic situation at Belgrade airport this coming winter. A total of 6 airlines will not be returning to Serbia. Some, such as Cimber-Sterling or Lot, had announced that they will be reinstating flights to Serbia with the 2012 summer season. On the other hand the potential return of some other carriers is uncertain, at least for the time being.

The struggling national carrier of Latvia, airBaltic, will not be returning to Belgrade, thus cutting the only direct airlink the two countries have ever had. airBaltic entered the Serbian market in April 2010 and was forced to axe the route within a few months as the lease on its Fokker 100 aircraft was expiring. They had remained optimistic about their future in Serbia and even announced their return for the following summer.

A year later, in May 2011, Riga and Belgrade were re-connected. Flights operate four times weekly with airBaltic’s brand new 74 seater Dash-8.

Loadfactor increased from 46% last year to 74% this year. The sharp rise in loadfactor was probably due to a smaller aircraft used between the two cities, but nevertheless passenger numbers have grown by 23% year on year.

Due to a deteriorating situation within the company, the airline was forced to axe Belgrade,  although tickets for the winter season were already on sale. The airline had even kept Belgrade as a 4 times weekly service instead of the originally planned two.

CSA Czech Airlines will not be returning to Belgrade after operating the route for more than 65 years. In 2007 and 2008 the airline saw its passenger numbers fall by 6% and 11% respectively! 2009 saw passenger numbers rise by 40% as the airline revised its schedule by increasing Belgrade to daily services while at the same time reducing the route to an Atr.This enabled more connecting possibilities via its hub in Prague.  Its impressive upward passenger trend continued in 2010 when the airline added an additional 6 frequencies, thus serving Belgrade with an almost twice daily service. With the increased competition in Belgrade CSA faced a sharp drop in bookings and completely revised its schedule for 2011 which sees the airline operate 4 weekly services to the Serbian capital, on board their old B737-500.

 

 

As a result of this reduction in capacity and frequency, year on year numbers fell by 34%.

 

 

 

Belgrade will eagerly await the return of both Lot and Cimber which had announced that their suspension will only be seasonal. Links to Copenhagen and Warsaw on these airlines is expected to resume with the 2012 summer season.

Airlines which operated flights last winter but will not do so this year are Aerosvit from Kiev and British Airways from London Heathrow.

Lufthansa will be introducing small changes to its current flight schedule. Double daily flights to Frankfurt are to see a drop in capacity as the airline plans on replacing the B737-300 with its smaller variant, B737-500. Munich will see two frequencies cut from 21 weekly to 19. Flight LH 1724 will be operated 5 times per week using the Crj-900.

Lufthansa could be considered as the most successful airline in Belgrade, with an average yearly growth of 20%. Last year the airline carried a total of 295,287 passengers achieving yearly growth of 9%. In the first 8 months of 2011 the airline did not record any considerable growth as it carried only 461 more passengers than the same period last year.

 

What is wrong with the airport?

In the statement published on the website of Belgrade international airport on the 15th of September, we were informed that as of December 2011 the Hungarian lowcost airline Wizz Air will be increasing its frequencies to Malmo. The airline currently operates the route three times per week; however from December they will switch their twice weekly rotation to Eindhoven in favour of Malmo. Eindhoven will be operated by an aircraft originating in the Netherlands.

Since the PR team of Belgrade airport is so eager to announce that Wizz Air will be adding more flights, how come they have not informed the public of several other airlines increasing, or even launching, their own flights to Belgrade?

Since the above mentioned team has not done so, below you can find information about the additional flights added this winter to Belgrade.

As of the winter timetable Austrian Airlines will be increasing their frequencies to Belgrade with an additional 6 frequencies.

Flight OS 735 will leave Vienna at 16:45 with the scheduled arrival time in Belgrade at 17:55. The return OS 736 is scheduled to leave Belgrade at 18:30 with its arrival time in Vienna as 19:50. Austrian Airlines will operate up to 4 daily rotations from Vienna, so through their codeshare with Jat Airways that number goes up to 6 daily flights.

Belgrade-Vienna will see tough competition as the Austrian no-frills airline Niki has announced it will double its presence in Belgrade by adding an additional 6 frequencies!

Its schedule has been revised in order to facilitate one-day trips to both cities in addition to increasing transit possibilities in Vienna.

Below is the new flight schedule of Niki for the upcoming winter season:

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Vienna-Belgrade  08:40-09:55

Belgrade-Vienna  11:30-12:45

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Vienna-Belgrade  16:55-18:10

Belgrade-Vienna  19:15-20:35

In total there will be 49 weekly frequencies between Belgrade and Vienna, on average 7 every day.

Another airline that was not mentioned, nor have its flights been loaded on the airport website is the Bern based SkyWork airline. They are scheduled to inaugurate two weekly frequencies this coming winter season, on Tuesdays and Saturdays. Flights depart Bern at 11:30, arriving  Belgrade at 14:05. Return flight is scheduled to leave Belgrade at 14:05 with the arrival time in Bern expected at 16:10.

The changes introduced by these three airlines are going to have a far greater impact on the situation at Belgrade airport than the additional two frequencies of Wizz Air.

Belgrade airport management is known for their ‘proud moments’. Some of the best ones had to be when they clearly showed us that they do not know the difference between ‘sit’ and ‘seat’; or how they informed us ‘To Copenhagen by plane’, for those who do not remember this was the title used when they announced the launch of flights by Cimber last year. After reading that post it made me wonder, what did Jat use to transport their own passengers to Copenhagen before the arrival of Cimber? Carriages? Buses?

There is no point in mentioning the professionalism of the Belgrade airport management. If there were any traces of it our airport would not look like a glorified bus station in a third world country!