New airline routes launched (6 – 12 March 2012)
Route of The Week:
Turkish Airlines’ Istanbul – Mogadishu
- Turkish Airlines became the first major commercial airline in decades to offer air services to Somalia’s Mogadishu (MGQ) on 6 March. The twice-weekly service will be operated as an extension of the Istanbul Atatürk (IST) to Khartoum (KRT) service, which the airline has offered since April 2006. The airline’s 167-seat 737-800 equipment will be deployed on the route. The service comes after last year’s visit by the Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who “wanted to challenge the notion that Somalia was a no-go area”. For many years, Somalia’s unrest served as a deterrent for airlines, with Kenya Express’ flights to Nairobi and Dalloo Airlines’ Djibouti service, offered since 2004 and 2011 respectively, being the country’s only international links. No Western carrier has served the country since Alitalia dropped its Rome Fiumicino to Mogadishu via Addis Ababa link in 1985.
Cake of The Week: Sun-Air’s Billund – Munich
- Danish airline Sun-Air, operating as a British Airways franchise partner, has introduced double-daily weekday service between Billund (BLL) and Munich (MUC), after the route was dropped by Cimber Sterling in late February. Sun-Air owner and captain Niels Sundberg said: “Our strategy is to offer direct routes from Jutland in close cooperation with the regional business sector – and we are determined to continue this strategy despite the very challenging market terms. The fierce competition and the high fuel prices make it very difficult to make a reasonable profit, but we believe that our aircraft are ideal for the Munich route and have decided to go for it. We have been in dialogue with several regional business customers in order to find the best possible schedule. We have succeeded in getting the desired slots in Munich and we are therefore able to offer our passengers a morning and evening departure on all weekdays as well as an evening departure on Sundays. The regional business sector greatly supports our initiative, and we look forward to offering our passengers the usual good Sun-Air service”. The route will be operated with Sun-Air’s Dornier 328 jet aircraft.
Extraordinary Cake of the Week: Hong Kong
Airlines Hong Kong to London Gatwick
- Hong Kong Airlines launched its first all-premium route on 7 March when the airline departed Hong Kong (HKG) with its new 116-seat A330-200s for London Gatwick (LGW), where it arrived the following morning. For more information, including interviews from the launch event, see last week’s special report. Three aircraft, which are equipped with 34 flat-bed and 82 ‘regular’ business class seats, are used to operate the route with daily frequencies, since, notably, the route is operated overnight in both directions. This means that the airline chooses to keep the aircraft on the ground during the day at each end. While the route makes Hong Kong Airlines the only airline to connect the two airports, indirect competition at London Heathrow currently comes from five other airlines. Cathay Pacific operates four daily flights, British Airways twice-daily, Virgin Atlantic daily, Qantas six times a week and Air New Zealand five times weekly. However, Qantas is dropping its services on the route at the end of this scheduling season at the end of the month. Gerard Clarke, Hong Kong Airlines’ GM UK, commented the new route: “We have gained a reputation for outstanding service over the past five years and we look forward to extending this to our new flagship route, connecting two global business capitals of the world. The concept for the all Club Class aircraft will provide passengers with a private jet style ambience and an exceptional crew to guest ratio, and we are confident that we have the right knowledge and experience to make a success of the new all Club Class daily service.”
The rest of this week’s new routes
- Air China relaunched its service connecting Shanghai Pudong (PVG) and Paris Charles de Gaulle (CDG) on 10 March. More than four years after it was first dropped in January 2008, the French capital returns as Air China’s third European destination served out of Shanghai, after Frankfurt and Milan Malpensa. The five-weekly flights will be operated using Airbus A340-300 equipment, seating 255 passengers in a three-class configuration. Air China will face competition from both Air France and China Eastern, which provide 12 and seven weekly services respectively. Shanghai is the second Chinese market, after Beijing, in which Air China offers non-stop services to France.
- Air Seychelles launched twice-weekly services connecting its Mahe (SEZ) hub with Abu Dhabi (AUH) on 12 March. 767-300 aircraft seating 246 passengers will be employed on the route. The move comes shortly after the Abu Dhabi-based Etihad acquired a 40% stake in the airline, and will further improve connectivity between the two hub airports. Etihad is the only other airline to provide capacity on the route, on which it operates four weekly frequencies with 136-seat A320s.
- Alaska Airlines inaugurated its first ever service to Kansas City, MO (MCI) on 12 March. The daily service from Seattle, WA (SEA) will be operated with 737-800 aircraft. The only competition on the route comes from Frontier, which provides four weekly frequencies, although Southwest does operate the route on a seasonal basis. On the same day, services between Portland, OR (PDX) and Long Beach, CA (LGB) were launched and will be offered with daily frequencies using SkyWest CRJ700 aircraft. JetBlue has operated the route since 2008 and now offers 13 weekly frequencies, or 1950 weekly seats against Frontier’s 490.
- Aegean Airlines has introduced flights between Athens (ATH) and Budapest (BUD), two airports in which German company Hochtief AirPort has an interest. The route, which launched on 9 March, will operate four times weekly (Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Sunday) in the morning using 168-seat A320s, configured in two classes. “We are delighted to see the popular Athens route reinstated so quickly following the cessation of Malev operations,” said Kam Jandu, Budapest Airport’s Aviation Director. “This is a great direct link with Greece by the country’s largest airline and the convenient flight schedule will enable business and leisure passengers from Hungary to make easy flight connections to and from the rest of Greece.” Malev was operating the route on a daily basis before it ceased operations in early February.
- India’s still rapidly expanding LCC IndiGo has added three new routes to its network during the last week. It now operates daily A320 flights between Kolkata (CCU) and Bhubaneswar (BBI), between Bhubaneswar (BBI) and Vishakhapatnam (VTZ), and between Vishakhapatnam (VTZ) and Chennai (MAA). The Kolkata – Bhubaneswar route is already served by Air India (daily), Jet Airways (three daily flights) and Kingfisher (two daily flights). The Vishakhapatnam – Chennai route is also already served by thee carriers; Air India (daily flights), Jet Airways (daily flights) and SpiceJet (double daily flights). However, the Bhubaneswar – Vishakhapatnam route is not currently served by any other carriers. In 2011 IndiGo carried 11.83 million passengers on domestic routes at an average load factor of 83.3%. Having reached its fifth birthday in August 2011, the airline began international flights in September 2011, and by the end of the year had carried 209,300 passengers on international routes at an average load factor of 81.2%.
- Indonesia AirAsia on 9 March introduced twice-daily domestic flights between Jakarta (CGK) and Semarang (SRG), the capital of Central Java province, located on the north coast of the island of Java. Competition on the short (430 kilometre) flight will be provided by Batavia (daily flights), Garuda Indonesia (nine daily flights), Lion Air (eight daily flights) and Sriwijaya Air (double daily flights). AirAsia already serves Semarang with daily flights from its base in Kuala Lumpur. This summer the AirAsia group of airlines will be operating around 30 daily departures from Jakarta, a similar number to what it was operating three years ago. However, the number of destinations served non-stop from the Indonesian capital has fallen during that period from 17 to just 10.
- Olympic Air has taken the bold decision to take on local rival Aegean Airlines, and Israeli national carrier El Al by starting non-stop flights between Athens (ATH) and Tel Aviv (TLV). Olympic Air’s deputy CEO Mr George Efstratiadis, commented: “It is a great pleasure for Olympic Air to return to Israel. The city of Tel Aviv used to be an important destination for Olympic since 1958 and today we are quite excited to announce the reactivation of the Athens -Tel Aviv – Athens route. The route’s launch coincides with significant developments across the board of regional and business relations in the Eastern Mediterranean region. Improving relations between Greece and Israel, especially in business affairs require flexible and efficient travel services between the two countries. On the other hand the increased flow of tourism calls for a general increase in air routes and capacities. Greek tourists are travelling very often to visit the Holy Lands and other religious shrines, while the Greek islands are becoming increasingly attractive for Israeli tourists. This is exactly where Olympic aims. To offer highly competitive travel schedules, with unsurpassed quality and attractive price. For Olympic Air the launch of the Tel Aviv route represents another significant step towards the implementation of its strategic planning: leadership in the eastern Mediterranean region”. This focus is in line with the airline dropping Western European services. At present, Olympic’s three weekly flights on A319/A320 aircraft will compete with four weekly flights from Aegean and two weekly flights from El Al. In the peak summer season, Olympic will add a fourth weekly flight, while Aegean will increase its service to daily, and El Al’s service is boosted to five weekly flights.
- Japanese LCC Skymark Airlines has launched double-daily flights between its bases at Tokyo Narita (NRT) and Kobe (UKB) using 177-seat 737-800s, of which it currently operates 24. This is the airline’s eighth domestic route from the off-shore island airport that serves Kobe, and makes it by far the biggest carrier at the airport, now operating some 27 daily departures. On three of the eight routes competition is provided by All Nippon Airways. This is now also Skymark’s fifth route at Tokyo Narita, from where it was already serving Asahikawa, Fukuoka, Okinawa, and Sapporo.
- Although AirTran and Southwest are now both operating under a single operating certificate, the two airlines have not yet been able to merge their reservations systems. Therefore, as far as its customers are concerned, Southwest launched two new daily flights from Atlanta (ATL) last Saturday to Las Vegas (LAS) and Phoenix (PHX). AirTran will also continue to serve both routes as well. Further competition is provided by Delta, which offers multiple daily flights to both Las Vegas and Phoenix, and US Airways which operates up to four flights per day on the Phoenix route.
- Tiger Airways begun flying to its first destination in Bangladesh on 9 March with the introduction of four times weekly (Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Sunday) flights between Singapore (SIN) and Dhaka (DAC). Competition will be provided by Biman Bangladesh which already connects the two cities six times a week, and Singapore Airlines, which operates daily flights with an A330-300. Last year, Tiger Airways (including its Australian subsidiary) flew 5.7 million passengers at an average load factor of 83%, almost exactly the same number as in 2010 when the load factor was 86%.
- On 11 March, United launched new service connecting Los Angeles, CA (LAX) with Durango (DGO) in Mexico. The weekly flight, scheduled on Sundays, will be operated by ExpressJet using 50-seat ERJ145 equipment. Durango is the 7th Mexican destination served by United out of Los Angeles, although twice-weekly frequencies from Houston Intercontinental have been offered under the Continental banner since 2004.
- On 10 March, US Airways started a weekly service to New York LaGuardia (LGA) from its Arizona hub at Phoenix (PHX), which will be offered using A319 aircraft in a 124-seat configuration. LaGuardia becomes the third New York airport to be served by the airline from Phoenix, with 21 frequencies offered to both Newark and JFK. Although no other carrier provides direct competition, US Airways will have to indirectly face United and Southwest, with their 28 and 14 respective weekly services to Newark, as well as JetBlue and Delta, which provide 13 weekly JFK services each.
- Mexico’s ultra-low-cost airline vivaaerobus, the airline analysed this week, has expanded its presence at Cancun (CUN) with the launch of a domestic route on 12 March. Villahermosa (VSA) will be served with double-weekly frequencies using one of the company’s 737-300s. vivaaerobus first entered Cancun in mid-2009 and has previously served three domestic destinations. Additionally, a new service connecting Mexico City (MEX) and Reynosa (REX) was launched on the same day. Three weekly flights will connect the north-eastern city with the capital. Direct competition on the Reynosa route includes 34 weekly frequencies provided by Aeroméxico, while the route from Cancun is currently not served by any other carrier, although scheduled services were offered by Aeromar and ALMA prior to 2008. Juan Carlos Zuazua, CEO vivaaerobus, underlines: “At the end of 2011, 30% of all our routes involved new destinations; we target markets with nil or limited connectivity, providing considerable cost and time savings to our customers.”