New airline routes launched (29 November – 5 December 2011)

Route of the Week:
AirAsia X’s Kuala Lumpur to Osaka Kansai

AirAsia X’s CEO Azran Osman-Rani tried on different outfits when he and his crew inaugurated the airline’s second route to Japan. The long-haul low-cost airline now flies from Kuala Lumpur to Osaka Kansai.

At Osaka Kansai Airport, a ribbon-cutting ceremony was held. Cutting the ribbon together with the crew were Shigeki Tsubokawa, AirAsia X GM & Station Manager Japan; Hiroshi Hasegawa, Administrator of the Airport, Osaka Regional Civil Aviation Bureau, Kansai International Airport Office; Azran Osman-Rani, CEO AirAsia X; and Shinichi Fukushima, president & CEO Kansai International Airport. Tsubokawa and Osman-Rani were then handed flowers.

  • AirAsia X launched its second route to Japan after Tokyo Haneda on 30 November when the long-haul low-cost airline connected its Kuala Lumpur (KUL) base with Osaka Kansai (KIX). 377-seat A330-300 aircraft operate the route four times weekly. Competition comes from Malaysia Airlines’ six flights a week. Azran Osman-Rani, CEO AirAsia X, said: “In less than one year since the commencement of the airline’s inaugural flight to Tokyo in December 2010, we are pleased to be adding one of Japan’s commercial and economic hub into our growing international network. The four times weekly flight is expected to help meet demand from business and leisure travellers between South East Asia and Japan.”

Cake of the Week: Oman Air’s Muscat to Zurich

The message on the cake welcoming Oman Air to Zurich is simple; Oman Air is the bridge between Switzerland’s Alpine meadows and Oman’s desert oases. Cutting the cake together with the crew were Oman Air’s Paul Starrs, GM Worldwide Sales, and Lina Samman, District Sales Manager Switzerland, along with Zurich Airport’s COO Stefan Conrad. The launch ceremony included a visit on board the aircraft for guests from the trade industry in order to get an impression of the product. (Cake-cutting photo: TRAVEL INSIDE)

  • Oman Air launched a new route to its sixth European destination on 2 December. The airline has now entered the Swiss market, operating from its Muscat (MCT) base to Zurich (ZRH). The 5,100-kilometre route is operated four times weekly with 216-seat A330-200 aircraft. The same route was previously served by Swissair between 1993 and 1997. The new route makes Oman Air the fourth Middle Eastern airline to serve Zurich after Emirates, Qatar Airways and Royal Jordanian.

The rest of this week’s new routes

  • British Airways, through its South African franchisee Comair, launched its first domestic route out of Lanseria (HLA), the airport serving both Johannesburg and Pretoria. Only in September did the airline launch operations at the airport. George (GRJ) on the South African south coast is the new destination. The airport will be served daily with ATR72 aircraft, although only for a limited period until 18 January. The airline already serves George from its main base at Johannesburg’s OR Tambo Airport.

In Bahrain, the first passenger on Gulf Air’s flight to Rome cut the ribbon, helped by Enrico Padula, Italian Ambassador to Bahrain, and Samer Majali, CEO Gulf Air. On arrival in the Italian capital, Aeroporti di Roma’s Director of Aviation Elia Pistola helped Majali cut the welcoming cake.

Gulf Air launches routes to Rome and Entebbe from Bahrain

Uganda’s ambassador to the UAE Sema Kula Kiwanuka cut the ribbon for Gulf Air’s new route between Bahrain and Entebbe, assisted by the airline’s Chief Services Officer Marcus Bernhardt.

  • Gulf Air launched two routes from its Bahrain (BAH) hub in the last week. On 30 November, the airline began serving the Italian capital airport Rome Fiumicino (FCO). Rome thereby becomes the airline’s second Italian destination after Milan Malpensa, which the airline began serving at the beginning of the summer season earlier this year. Flights on the new route are operated four times weekly – on Sundays, Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays; departing Bahrain at 02:00 am – with 136-seat A320 aircraft. The airline previously operated the route between 1996 and 2001. Gulf Air’s CEO Samer Majali commented: “Expanding into Europe is part of the strategy we rolled out last year. Launching Rome will offer our customers the best network of destinations through the fastest hub in the region and the most competitive fares in the market today. We’ve received positive feedback on Milan from our customers, and we trust that Rome will see the same success, and that our passengers will get to enjoy everything this great city has to offer.” Aeroporti di Roma’s Director of Aviation Elia Pistola added: “We are thrilled to welcome Gulf Air’s inaugural flight to Rome. We see this as an opportunity for the people of Bahrain and Italy to explore the two countries, invest in potential businesses, and strengthen cultural and social ties linking the two nations. We take pride in being the only European country with two Gulf Air destinations, and we hope this leads to opening more Italian routes for the carrier in the future.” On 5 December, Gulf Air also expanded its African network, launching four weekly flights to Entebbe (EBB) in Uganda. The route will be operated with 124-seat A319 equipment. This is Gulf Air’s third African route launched this year after Addis Ababa and Nairobi.

Helvetic Airways launches new route to Bristol from Zurich

Cutting the ribbon for Helvetic’s new route to Bristol were Bruno Jans, CEO Helvetic Airways, and Robert Sinclair, CEO Bristol Airport, assisted by the airport’s travel trade development executive Shirley Knight and marketing executive Francesca Bizon.

  • Helvetic Airways launched a new route to the UK out of its Zurich (ZRH) base on 5 December as the airline began serving Bristol (BRS). Flights operate three times weekly with the airline’s 100-seat Fokker 100s. The airline notably served nearby Cardiff, 45 kilometres away, until last month. The last time Bristol was connected with Zurich was when BA operated the route between 2005 and 2007. Bruno Jans, CEO Helvetic Airways, commented: “With flights to Bristol we are developing our service in an economically strong region of the British Isles, providing business travellers with a fast link to Zurich. For Swiss tourists, Bristol is an ideal starting point for leisure trips.” Robert Sinclair, CEO Bristol Airport, added: “The launch of Helvetic Airways’ new service to Zurich reconnects the South West to this important business destination.  We are confident the region’s business community will make Helvetic welcome by getting behind this new route, which has long been on the wish list of passengers.”

A cake welcomed the Mexican low-cost airline Interjet to San Antonio – its first US destination! There was a Texan theme in the airline’s colours at the gate area where passengers prepared to board the first flight to Mexico City.

  • Interjet continues its international expansion. The Mexican low-cost carrier launched its first route to the United States on 1 December when the airline began serving San Antonio (SAT) in Texas. Interjet now flies 12 times weekly from the main airport serving the Mexican capital Mexico City (MEX) with 150-seat A320s, competing with AeroMexico’s 20 flights a week.

  • Olympic Air launched its second route to Albania’s capital Tirana (TIA) on 2 December. The Greek airline now flies twice-weekly from Thessaloniki (SKG) with its 78-seat Q400 aircraft, complementing its flights from Athens. The airline’s predecessor Olympic Airways previously operated the route between 1992 and 2001.

Pluna’s Punta del Este service was welcomed to São Paulo Guarulhos on 1 December. The Uruguayan airline now flies daily to the Brazilian city until April.

  • Pluna, the flag carrier of Uruguay, launched a new route from the resort city of Punta del Este (PDP) on 1 December. The all-CRJ900 operator then launched a seasonal, daily service from the city on the Atlantic coast to São Paulo Guarulhos (GRU) in Brazil with its 90-seat aircraft. Flights will operate until 10 April. The airline has previously operated the route between 2002 and 2008.

  • Royal Air Maroc added Angola’s capital Luanda (LAD) to its network on 1 December. The airline now flies twice-weekly from Casablanca (CMN) via Libreville (LBV) in Gabon – a route already served by the airline – onward to Luanda. Flights are operated with 162-seat 737-800 aircraft. This is the only service between North Africa and the Angolan capital.

Cutting the ribbon in Lagos for Rwandair’s new route were Musa H., Nigerian Aviation Authority Representative; Albert Nsengiyumva, Rwandan Minister of Infrastructure; Joseph Habineza, Rwandan Ambassador to Nigeria; and James Kabarebe, Rwandan Minister of Defence.

  • Rwandair launched its 13th destination on 3 December when the airline ventured into the West Africa market. Rwandair now flies three times weekly – on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays – from its Kigali (KGL) base to Lagos (LOS) in Nigeria with its 737-800s. RwandAir’s CEO John Mirenge commented the new route: “At the beginning of the year, we made a commitment to expand our network with a focus on Central and West Africa. Lagos for us is an exciting addition to our network and we know the destination will have very positive contributions to the already existing network. We are pleased to make this our first West African destination.”

  • Ryanair entered the expanding London-Barcelona market on 1 December when the low-cost airline connected its bases at London Stansted (STN) and Barcelona (BCN). Ryanair flies the new route twice-daily, competing with easyJet’s daily operations. Further indirect competition at other London airports comes from BA’s 56 weekly flights from Heathrow and four weekly flights from London City, easyJet’s 32 flights a week from Gatwick and 13 weekly flights from Luton, as well as Monarch’s recently launched 11 weekly Gatwick flights.

  • Skymark Airlines continued expanding its new base at Tokyo Narita (NRT), adding another domestic route to its network on 1 December. The low-cost carrier now flies twice-daily to Okinawa (OKA), the island in the south of Japan, with its 177-seat 737-800s. The service complements the airline’s 24 weekly flights to Okinawa from Tokyo Haneda.

  • SpiceJet continued expanding its regional network out of Chennai (MAA) on 1 December, launching a daily service to Thoothukudi (TCR), also known as Tuticorin, in the south of the country. Flights are operated with the airline’s new 78-seat Q400s. Competition comes from Kingfisher Airlines’ also daily flights, which notably is the only other service at the airport.

On 1 December, Transaero’s 737-500 for the first time docked at an air bridge branded ‘Recharge in Vilnius’. Russia’s second-largest airline now flies four times weekly from Moscow Domodedovo to the Lithuanian capital. (Photos: Augustas Didzgalvis)

  • Transaero, Russia’s second-largest airline, launched its second route to the Baltic countries after its Riga route on 1 December when the airline connected its Moscow Domodedovo (DME) hub with the Lithuanian capital Vilnius (VNO). Flights operate four times weekly, on Mondays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays, with 101-seat 737-500 aircraft. Indirect competition comes from UTair’s twice-daily flights from Moscow Vnukovo. Transaero Airlines’ General Director Olga Pleshakova said: “The start of operations to Vilnius Airport marks another very important step in diversifying Transaero’s route network and building connections between European cities and destinations across Russia, the CIS and far beyond. We’re are pretty confident that passengers of our new flight will take advantage of not only direct service to Moscow but our transfer facilities at Domodedovo airport as well. There’s no doubt this will contribute in our further development, allow Transaero to maintain its position of the fastest growing airline among top-five Russian carriers and further enhance our market share”.

Virgin America’s VP airports & guest services Ross Bonanno cut the ribbon for the airline’s new route from San Francisco to Puerto Vallarta in Mexico, accompanied by a mariachi band. Joining the first commercial passengers were finalists of the airline’s Viva la Vacación video challenge, who faced off online with 30-second videos sharing their “best, boldest or most bizarre vacation stories.”

  • Virgin America, the airline analysed this week, added a new international destination to its network on 2 December when the airline launched five weekly flights from its San Francisco, CA (SFO) base to Puerto Vallarta (PVR) on Mexico’s Pacific coast. This is the airline’s third destination in Mexico after Los Cabos and Cancun. The new flights, which are operated with A320 aircraft, compete with Alaska Airlines’ daily and United’s six weekly flights.

Other celebrations in the last week

Rome Fiumicino Airport has had a strong Middle Eastern focus in the last week, with capacity increases on both Qatar Airways and Emirates in addition to Gulf Air’s new route being launched (see above). Emirates upgraded aircraft capacity to the A380 on one of its two daily flights to the Italian capital. This makes Rome Fiumicino the first Italian airport to welcome the A380 on regular, scheduled services. Celebrating at the gate were Aeroporti di Roma’s Director of Aviation Elia Pistola and Massimo Massini, Emirates’ Area Manager Italy. Meanwhile, Qatar Airways doubled its frequencies and now serves Rome Fiumicino twice-daily.

There seemed to be no end to the cakes when the Mexican low-cost airline vivaaerobus celebrated its 5th anniversary and also took the opportunity to announce the beneficiary of its 2012 cabin crew calendar; Alianza Anticancer Infantil. Representatives of the children’s cancer charity are seen posing with the airline’s CEO Juan Carlos Zuazua. In five years, vivaaerobus has transported almost 9 million passengers and this year alone, the airline will close with 3.3 million passengers, a 40% increase on last year as the airline went from 11 aircraft in 2010 to 17 in 2011.

Flybe flew children from a cancer ward at Royal Devon & Exeter Hospital on a specially chartered flight with Santa and key players from Exeter City Football Club’s First Team squad, while two RAF Falcons escorted the aircraft in-flight. The aircraft used was a brand new E-175, prior to going into scheduled service yesterday. Flybe’s 2011 Santa Flight from Exeter reflects similar flights the airline has undertaken in previous years for children from Inverness and Southampton. (Photos: Keith Stone)


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