Friday, October 31, 2014

Wizz Air to open regional base in Tuzla

Wizz Air’s Tuzla base to cover Serbia and Croatia

Low cost airline Wizz Air will open a regional base for Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Croatia at Tuzla Airport from June 1, 2015, local authorities have said. The no frills carrier will base one of its aircraft in Bosnia and Herzegovina’s third largest city and operate 25 weekly flights. It expects to handle some 300.000 passengers per year. “This means they [Wizz Air] will base one to two aircraft in Tuzla, with more jobs to be created and at least two new destinations to be launched”, Mustafa Isabegović, Tuzla Canton’s Minister for Transport, said. The low cost airline launched services to the Bosnian city last summer and is the only carrier offering scheduled flights out of Tuzla. It currently serves the city from Malmo, Basel, Dortmund, Gothenburg and Eindhoven.

It is unknown whether Wizz Air’s expansion in Tuzla will affect its operations at nearby Belgrade Airport, where it also has an operational base, as well as potential flights to Croatia. The carrier’s expansion in Serbia was abruptly halted earlier this year when the airport discontinued its benefits for the airline and hiked fees. At the time, Wizz Air said Belgrade had become the most expensive airport in its destination network. However, the no frills carrier recently confirmed it was also in talks with Niš Constantine the Great Airport, in Serbia’s south-east, to launch flights to the city during the 2015 summer season. On the other hand, the airline has a limited presence in Croatia. Following a brief and unsuccessful stint in Zagreb, it now operates only seasonal flights to Split.

Over the past nine months, Tuzla Airport handled 109.160 passengers, an increase of 182.5% compared to the same period last year. Prior to Wizz Air’s arrival, the airport was mostly deserted since it opened its doors for commercial traffic in 2008. The airline’s CEO, Josef Varadi, recently said, “Introducing flights from Tuzla and increasing services later on is indicative of the strong cooperation we have and we think it is time for the next phase”. According to Bosnia's Federal Minister for Transport and Communication, Enver Bijedić, Wizz Air is considering launching flights to Sarajevo. Talks between the budget airline and Sarajevo Airport are in progress, with the carrier’s CEO indicating services from three different cities could be launched to the Bosnian capital during the 2015 summer season.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Air Serbia approaching two million passengers

Air Serbia's Q3 revenue, cargo and passenger volumes rise

Air Serbia is set to handle its two-millionth passenger tomorrow after posting strong results in the third quarter. The Serbian carrier handled 730.000 passengers between July and September this year, up 74% on the 419.000 travellers welcomed during the same period in 2013. Air Serbia Cargo also achieved growth of 64% by carrying 669 tonnes of freight during Q3. August was the carrier’s busiest month in history with a total of 239.000 passengers using the airline’s services, up 71%. The first half of the month was particularly busy with 180.000 passengers travelling with the airline. Aviolet, Air Serbia’s charter brand launched in May this year, operated over 520 flights during the summer season and transported 90.000 passengers.

Air Serbia’s CEO, Dane Kondić, says, “Between January and September, Air Serbia carried a total of 1.8 million passengers and 2.000 tonnes of cargo, in each case reflecting an increase of 66% over the same period in 2013. These are impressive numbers and, importantly, revenue is following this trend closely”. Revenue in the third quarter amounted to 57 million euros, up 54% on last year. Air Serbia, like its partner Etihad Airways, does not report profit figures, however, the airline has again said it is "on track for profitability by end 2014". Mr. Kondić adds, “Our success would not be possible without the commitment and loyalty of our people and I would like to recognise their hard work, they are the engine of our growth. However, at the centre of our business are our customers and I also extend our appreciation for their loyal support. We are taking onboard all feedback and continuously improving the way in which we serve our customers, every day”. Air Serbia’s passenger carrying capacity, measured in Available Seat Kilometres (ASK), was 967 million by the end of Q3, an increase of 62% over the same period last year.

The Serbian carrier says it now counts 1.795 employees, including its subsidiaries Air Serbia Catering and Air Serbia Ground Services. More staff are being hired with a further forty pilots to take up their positions at the airline by year’s end. In addition, the carrier says its special prorate agreement with India’s Jet Airways has been further expanded to include destinations such as Ahmedabad and Goa. Air Serbia also agreed to expand its codeshare cooperation with Aeroflot this winter, with the Serbian carrier adding its code onto Aerflot flights from Moscow to Sochi. In return, Aeroflor has begun codesharing on Air Serbia’s services from Belgrade to Tirana and Sarajevo. The Serbian carrier is now set to become the first airline in the former Yugoslavia to handle over two million passengers in a single year since JAT Yugoslav Airlines last recorded such results in 1991.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Skopje Airport handles millionth passenger

Skopje Airport records busiest year in history

Skopje Alexander the Great Airport has welcomed its millionth passenger for the first time in fourteen years and for only the second time in its history. Macedonia’s busiest airport saw its millionth passenger, Jana Ivanovska, arrive yesterday on a Wizz Air flight from Eindhoven. Ms. Ivanovska was awarded a weekend trip for two to Istanbul, with the passenger visibly surprised upon her arrival. Skopje Airport, which has recorded average growth of 21% so far in 2014, has already handled more passengers than it did for the whole of last year. In addition, the airport is set to see a 14% increase in travellers in October when compared to 2013. The substantial growth has been primarily driven by Wizz Air, which launched four new destinations this year, as well as Alitalia’s arrival to Skopje.

However, the achievement comes at a price. TAV Airports Holding, which runs Skopje Alexander the Great Airport, will pay the Macedonian government significantly less for its twenty year concession since it has handled over a million passengers this year. Under the agreement signed with the Macedonian government, TAV’s fees are reduced based on the airport’s performance. Once the airport handles over one million passengers, fees are reduced from 15% of gross income to 2% of the airport’s turnover. As a result, the Turkish operator will provide the government only between 350.000 to 700.000 euros this year compared to 2.7 million in previous years. TAV’s concession fee will no longer cover the subsidies the Macedonian government provides to low cost airlines, such as Wizz Air, to operate flights to Skopje.

Under the concession agreement with Turkey’s TAV, the company will manage both Skopje and Ohrid airports until 2030 and has already invested 120 million euros in the construction of a new terminal in Skopje and the overhaul of Ohrid Airport’s passenger terminal. The concession agreement also requires TAV to build a cargo terminal in Štip, which has been delayed until 2020. Nevertheless, it has been a very successful year for Skopje Airport, which was named the best in Europe handling under two million passengers by Airports Council International (ACI) earlier in 2014. Passenger numbers are expected to continue to grow next year as the government mulls the establishment of a national airline and maintains subsides for low cost airlines. TAV estimates Skopje will handle up to five million passengers in the coming years.

Below you can review the five busiest years at Skopje Airport. The former Yugoslavia will now have six airports to have handled over one million passengers in a single year.

20141.000.000 +

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Air Serbia begins new development phase

Air Serbia anticipates growth in Europe and North America

On the back of its first anniversary, Air Serbia yesterday signalled the start to a new stage in its development, in what the airline says is “part of the next phase of growth for Serbia’s national airline beyond the Balkan region, including Europe and North America”. The carrier’s CEO, Dane Kondić, says, “Air Serbia has already achieved strong growth in Serbia and the region. However, if we are to be truly successful with the implementation of our business plan, we need to strengthen our presence across Europe as we connect our network with those of our partners”. The CEO also added, “There is no point in having the best product and service or most connected network, if people don’t know who you are, where you fly or what you stand for”. In the coming days, the airline will launch a multi-media campaign which will initially run for a month in the Balkan region, Russia, Poland, Germany, France, Italy, Sweden, Denmark, Switzerland and Austria.

Over the weekend, Air Serbia’s Chairman, Siniša Mali, reiterated the carrier’s plans to launch long haul flights next year, highlighting New York and Toronto as its first transatlantic routes. Commenting on the future flights, Mr. Mali recently said, “These services will not only improve relations between our countries and offer our diaspora better links to their homeland, they will also improve economic, cultural and sporting ties. At the same time, those in neighbouring countries will have an opportunity to transfer through Belgrade onwards to the United States”. The carrier’s Chairman believes the flights will be launched in late 2015, after all necessary permits are granted. Etihad Airways CEO and Air Serbia’s Vice-Chairman, James Hogan, has previously said Chicago is likely to become the airline’s first destination in the States.

Meanwhile, closer to home, the CEO of Pula Airport, Svemir Radmilo, yesterday confirmed Air Serbia will boost its flights from Belgrade next year. “Air Serbia has told us it will operate daily flights in 2015. This year there were three weekly flights from Belgrade”, Mr. Radmilo said. He added Pula Airport handled an additional 8.000 passengers from Serbia this year when compared to last. Furthermore, sources close to Ljubljana Airport have said the carrier could double its flights to the city next year. It currently runs daily services to the Slovenian capital. Air Serbia’s Chairman recently noted the airline's goal is to operate double daily flights to each capital city in the former Yugoslavia, with services to Zagreb and Pristina to be established in the foreseeable future. Air Serbia is the fourth national carrier in the former Yugoslavia to reveal some its plans for the coming year following Adria Airways, Croatia Airlines and Montenegro Airlines.