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:

123456-

Vienna-Belgrade  08:40-09:55

Belgrade-Vienna  11:30-12:45

12345-7

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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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/