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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Adria to open new bases and double passengers

Adria considering up to four new operational bases

Adria Airways has detailed plans to hit two million passengers and a 220 million euro turnover by 2020, supported by a fleet of sixteen aircraft and several new bases across Europe. Even though the Slovenian carrier handled just under one million passengers last year and recorded revenue of 150 million euros, Adria’s CEO, Mark Anžur, is confident the airline will reach its goal within six years by reducing frequencies, increasing capacity and serving “unpopular routes”. “Last year was the first year we were profitable at EBIT level, with a one million euro profit, but we still had a three million euro net loss due to historical reasons”, Mr. Anžur says.

The results achieved last year are still a marked improvement on 2012 when the airline posted losses of 67 million euros. “During 2012-13, we started a restructuring program, which set the airline on the path of future growth”, Adria’s CEO says. He adds that faced with stiff competition from low cost airlines such as Wizz Air and easyJet, both of which operate flights to the Slovenian capital, Adria has been forced to reorganise its business, cut 200 jobs and decrease frequencies while increasing capacity. “We now specialise in serving unpopular European routes with aircraft which have the capacity to seat less than 100 passengers”, Mr. Anžur notes. The airline’s six year growth plan foresees the opening of three to four new bases across Europe. Outside of Ljubljana, Adria has a base in Pristina and plans to open one in Tirana next summer season. “The Slovenian market is small and is not growing. We now receive 70% of our revenue outside of our main market”, Mr. Anžur explains.

The carrier’s CEO believes opening new bases, without creating subsidiaries in different countries, is a sound business plan which will see the airline double its passenger numbers within six years, even without a strategic partner. In order to support such growth, Adria is looking into growing its fleet. It will retire all of its unprofitable Bombardier CRJ200 aircraft by the end of next year and its fleet will consists of sixteen CRJs and Airbuses by 2020. However, Adria’s CEO says the exact type of aircraft to be operated will depend on the carrier's destination network. The airline recently grounded one of its CRJ200s leaving it with only two in its fleet. Adria is now seeking out a buyer for its grounded Bombardier jet.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Etihad Regional launches Pristina flights

Etihad Regional marks quiet arrival into Pristina

Swiss-based Etihad Regional, previously known as Darwin Airline, has launched five weekly flights from Zurich to Pristina. The regional carrier, partially owned by Etihad Airways (pending government approval), inaugurated the service last Friday without much fanfare or official acknowledgment. While tickets cannot be purchased via the airline’s website, nor is the city listed in its destination network, bookings can be made through local travel agents. Etihad Regional operates the new service each Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday with an ATR72 aircraft. Previously, Darwin Airline operated services between the two cities until the route was suspended earlier this year. Flights are scheduled to depart Zurich in the morning, while the return service from Pristina takes off just after midday.

The Prime Minister of Kosovo, Hashim Taci, announced the new service on his official Facebook page last Friday. “I have some good news from Pristina Airport. Starting today, one of the most prestigious airlines in the world, Etihad Regional, will offer new flights between Pristina and Zurich”, the Prime Minister said. He added, “This is good news for our compatriots living in Switzerland and for the development of Kosovo’s aviation industry. Not long ago, in a meeting with representatives from airlines operating to Pristina, I asked them to increase their flights to Kosovo, which is why we have provided an incentive scheme for new companies entering the market. The arrival of world renowned airlines to Kosovo will ensure higher quality service and cheaper fares for our citizens”.

Switzerland is Pristina Airport’s busiest market with Zurich the most popular destination served out of Kosovo in 2013. A total of 20.7% of all passengers using Pristina Airport last year were either heading to or arriving from the Swiss city. Etihad Regional faces direct competition on the route from Belair (not to be confused with Belle Air), Edelweiss Air and Helvetic Airways. Etihad Regional’s arrival comes as good news for Pristina Airport, which has seen its passenger numbers decline 18% in the first half of the year. Etihad Regional has a limited presence in the former Yugoslavia. The airline operates flights from Geneva to Belgrade and has codeshare agreements in place with its equity alliance partner Air Serbia. The airline cancelled plans earlier this year to inaugurate flights from Rome to Zagreb.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Wizz Air sees Belgrade growth despite cutbacks

Wizz Air records Belgrade passenger growth in spite of reduced operations

Low cost airline Wizz Air has recorded an increase in passenger numbers at Belgrade Nikola Tesla Airport during the first half of the year despite a spat over fees and charges, which have seen it steadily reduce operations from the Serbian capital since May. The budget carrier handled 217.978 travellers on flights to and from its Belgrade base, up 13.6% compared to the same period last year. As a result, Wizz Air maintains its position as the second busiest airline in Serbia ahead of Lufthansa (down 8.4% on last year) and Montenegro Airlines (down 7.5%). However, the no frills airline has seen its passenger share decline slightly from 12.7% in the first half of 2013, to 11% this year.

Over the past six months, Wizz Air has been involved in a much publicised quarrel with both Belgrade Airport and the Serbian government over fees, benefits and protectionism. The airline cancelled its flights from Belgrade and Charleroi in May and rebased one of its two Airbus A320s from Belgrade to Riga. However, Wizz Air has introduced new flights to Larnaca, which are to be maintained during the winter season as well. In April, the airline said the Serbian capital had become the most expensive in its network and announced a cut in capacity of 130.000 seats during the year with 700 fewer flights operated this year as a result of the airport’s decision to increase fees. Earlier this month, the airline said it was monitoring the situation in Belgrade, noting its continued presence in the city has been put into doubt and that its growth plans for the country have been undermined.

Wizz Air opened its first operating base in the former Yugoslavia in Belgrade in 2010. Last year it handled 480.000 passengers to and from the city. The airline has gone on to open a base in Skopje as well, which has now surpassed Belgrade in both network and fleet size. The low cost airline is now considering basing an aircraft in Tuzla in Bosnia and Herzegovina and launching up to seven new routes from the city, which could further affect its operations in Serbia.