New airline routes launched (28 August – 3 September 2012)
Alaska Airlines’ Portland to Washington National
- Alaska Airlines launched its third route to the US federal capital’s downtown airport Washington Reagan, VA (DCA) on 28 August. The airline, which already flies to the airport from Seattle and Los Angeles, now also flies daily from Portland, OR (PDX). The 3,780-kilometre transcontinental route is operated with 157-seat 737-800s. Indirect competition at Washington Dulles comes from United’s also daily flights. Joe Sprague, Alaska Airlines’ VP marketing, who was joined on the first flight by six Oregon World War II veterans, said: “Providing residents of the greater Portland area with convenient nonstop service to the closest airport to our nation’s capital has been a priority for us for more than seven years and we’re delighted to celebrate this day with six men who sacrificed so much for our country.” Senator Maria Cantwell, chair of the US Senate subcommittee on Aviation Operations, Safety and Security, added: “This nonstop flight to D.C. represents economic opportunity for Portland and Southwest Washington and is a boost for business and tourism. That’s why I helped to write the provision in the FAA reauthorization bill that created new flights from Western cities to our nation’s capital. This flight will help Portland-area businesses reach their customers more quickly and it makes this region a more attractive place for businesses to locate and create jobs.”
Drukair’s Paro to Singapore
- Drukair, the national carrier of the Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan, added Singapore (SIN) to its route map on 1 September. The airline serves the city state with twice-weekly frequencies from Paro (PBH), operating via Kolkata (CCU) in India, using 114-seat A319 aircraft. This makes Singapore only the fifth country to be connected with Bhutan by air. Tourism Council of Bhutan figures show that about 1,300 visitors from Singapore headed for Bhutan in 2011, representing an increase of more than 70% over 2010. Changi Airport Group’s EVP Air Hub Development, Yam Kum Weng, commented: “In recent years, more people in Singapore and the region are looking forward to visiting Bhutan to experience its unspoilt, exotic beauty and rich culture. Drukair’s commencement of flights from Paro to Singapore is timely in meeting this increasing market demand, and enhancing the people-to-people exchange between the two countries.” Tandin Jamso, Drukair’s CEO, added: “Drukair is honoured by the warm welcome given by Singapore. For Drukair, Singapore is not just another destination, but an opportunity to bring our two nations and people together. Drukair aims to connect Singapore to Bhutan, and afford its people an opportunity to experience a way of life that is slowly fading in many countries, an opportunity to experience happiness like the Bhutanese. The goal of Drukair is to eventually make Singapore our gateway to the world.”
The rest of this week’s new routes
- Aeroflot expanded its network to Italy on 1 September, following the entry of competitor Transaero in the scheduled market to Italy. The Russian national carrier’s fourth Italian destination after Milan Malpensa, Rome Fiumicino and Venice is Bologna (BLQ) in the northeast of the country, which is analysed in this week’s anna.aero. The new route is operated daily with 140-seat A320s out of the SkyTeam airline’s Moscow Sheremetyevo (SVO) hub. The Russian capital was last served from Bologna by Meridiana fly, which dropped its low-frequency route to Moscow Domodedovo in January this year.
- On 3 September, AeroMexico launched services on the commuter route from Mexico City (MEX) to Querétaro (QRE), located just 175 kilometres to the north-west of the Mexican capital. 20 weekly departures are now offered on the route, all of which will be operated with ERJ145s. There is no competition on the route. Notably, last week saw AeroMexico and Delta announce their plan to begin construction of a jointly operated MRO centre in Querétaro.
- Air Astana, the Kazakh airline that last week launched its second route to Beijing, has added another Chinese route to its network on 28 August. From Almaty (ALA), the airline’s main hub in Kazakhstan’s largest city, flights are now operated twice-weekly to Hong Kong (HKG). The 4,115-kilometre flights operate on Tuesdays and Fridays with 166-seat 757 aircraft. “Air Astana is in the midst of its 10th anniversary celebrations and I’m delighted to add this pioneering direct service to Hong Kong from Central Asia to our achievements this year. Alpine Almaty and dynamic Hong Kong are both exciting destinations and with visa free travel for HKSAR/ Kazakhstan passport holders, I’m confident about strong traffic growth amongst both business and leisure travellers,” said Peter Foster, President of Air Astana.
- Air France continued expanding Marseille (MRS) base on 3 September, taking over the service to Amsterdam (AMS) from its Dutch sister airline KLM, which until now has operated four flights a day with KLM Cityhopper’s regional aircraft. Air France now launches the route with three daily frequencies, but using bigger A319 aircraft. As a consequence of the switch, seat capacity is up by 9% on the route.
- BQB, part of Uruguay’s Buquebus Group that also provides ferry and coach services, launched flights on the route from Montevideo (MVD) to Asunción (ASU) on 3 September. Four weekly services are now offered between the capitals of Uruguay and Paraguay, and all will be operated with the airline’s fleet of ATR 72s. Twice-weekly, the aircraft will make a stopover in Salto (STY) in Uruguay on the return leg. Another Uruguayan airline, Pluna, operated the route prior to its collapse in July.
- CSA Czech Airlines resumed operations on two routes between Prague (PRG) and Germany on 3 September, both of which the airline’s partner Central Connect Airlines used to operate on its behalf until the regional operator suspended operations in June. The Czech national carrier now flies 10 times weekly to Berlin Tegel (TXL) and 11 times a week to Stuttgart (STR); both with 46-seat ATR 42 aircraft. The SkyTeam airline already serves Frankfurt, Düsseldorf and Hamburg in Germany. One further German destination, Hannover, was serves by Central Connect; however, Czech Airlines has not announced the return of this route.
- Easyfly, the Colombian regional carrier, launched a new route from the Colombian port city of Barranquilla (BAQ) to Valledupar (VUP), located in the north-east of the country. Beginning on 1 September, the airline offers thrice-weekly services on the 175-kilometre route, which will be served using Jetstream 41s. Notably, the route was previously operated with at least five weekly frequencies by Aires, but it was dropped in August 2010, prior to the airline’s takeover by LAN only four months later.
- eurolot, the state-owned Polish regional airline, launched operation on the 440-kilometre domestic route from Katowice (KTW) to Gdańsk (GDN) on 3 September. Services on the south to north routing are now offered with six weekly frequencies and operated with ATR 72s. There is no competition on the route, however, it was previously operated first by Jetair and then by its successor, OLT Express. Following the latter’s demise, services on the route were discontinued in late July. The new service comes as second former OLT Express route to be taken up by eurolot, after flights from Kraków to Poznań were inaugurated two weeks ago.
- Grozny Avia, the Russian domestic airline based in Chechnya, launched a new route to the federal capital on 3 September. From Nalchik (NAL) by the Caucasus Mountains, the airline now flies four times weekly to Moscow Vnukovo (VKO) with its Yak-42 aircraft. Competition comes from Kuban Airlines’ daily flights. Indirect competition at Moscow Domodedovo also comes from Saravia’s daily operations.
- Iberia, the Spanish flag carrier, returned on the domestic route connecting two major cities on the Mediterranean coast. Beginning on 3 September, flights from Barcelona (BCN) to Valencia (VLC) are offered with 11 weekly frequencies. All services on the 300-kilometre route will be operated by the regional airline Air Nostrum on Iberia’s behalf, using 50-seat CRJ200s. Iberia dropped the route from its network in October last year, but now resumes services as the previous competitor on the route, Spanair, has ceased operating.
- IrAero entered the Chinese market on 3 September, as it launched two routes from Russia to Inner Mongolia. The airline now offers twice-weekly services from Irkutsk (IKT), which is located just off Lake Baikal on the shores of Angara River, to Hailar (HLD), and also twice-weekly flights from Ulan-Ude (UUD) in the Republic of Buryatia to Manzhouli (HNZ). Flights on both routes are operated with CRJ200s.
- Malaysia Airlines commenced services on the 3,300-kilometre route from Kuala Lumpur (KUL) to the Nepalese capital of Kathmandu (KTM) on 1 September. The carrier now offers thrice-weekly flights on the route to the Nepalese capital, which is the subject of this week’s anna.aero airport analysis, all of which will be operated using 160-seat 737-800 equipment. Malaysia Airlines faces competition from both Nepal Airlines and Air Asia X, which provide four and two weekly flights respectively. Malaysia Airlines’ Commercial Director, Hugh Dunleavy, said: “We see great potential in Kathmandu. Kathmandu is a hub for independent travellers as well as a growing vacation spot catering to all budgets. Surrounded by serene mountains, it is a perfect place for those who yearn for a relaxing holiday or even a challenging mountain climbing adventure. We also foresee and welcome the labour market traffic from Nepal to Malaysia to use this direct connection.”
- Mihin Lanka, the government-owned Sri Lankan LCC, launched five-weekly services connecting Colombo (CMB) and Bahrain (BAH) on 2 September. The move comes as a result of restructuring effort at also state-owned Sri Lankan Airlines, which withdrew from the route after 40 years’ operation. However, a code-share agreement has been put in place. Mihin Lanka will operate the 3,750-kilometre route using A321s in all-economy seating. Bahrain’s own airline, Gulf Air, already serves the market with ten weekly flights. Pujitha Jayakody, Mihin Lanka’s Director Flight operations and Training, said: “Together with our code share partner SriLankan Airlines, Mihin will provide convenient connections to destinations in India, Far East and other destinations.”
- As the low-cost airline bmibaby is closed down, Monarch entered the East Midlands (EMA) market on 31 August with daily services to four southern European destinations, all of which used to be operated by bmibaby. Monarch now offers A320 operated flights to Alicante (ACL), Málaga (AGP) and Palma de Mallorca (PMI) in Spain, as well as to Faro (FAO) in the southern Portuguese region of Algarve. Ryanair and Jet2.com also already serve all four cities with between four and nine weekly flights, while Thomsonfly offers between one and four weekly flights on the routes. Additionally, Alicante and Palma de Mallorca are offered by Thomas Cook with one and three weekly flights respectively. Kevin George, Managing Director of Monarch Airlines, said: “As opportunities have opened up in the market, it has become clear that the Midlands will be underserved as a region in the future. As an airline with over 40 years heritage and a stronghold in the Midlands already, the launch of operations from East Midlands makes perfect sense for Monarch, and accelerates the strategy we announced last year to focus on the development of our scheduled operations into key leisure destinations across the Mediterranean, the Canaries and North Africa.”
- Nok Air resumed services on the domestic route between Bangkok Don Mueang (DMK) and Buri Ram (BFV) on 2 September. The Thai low-cost airline with a minority share held by Thai Airways used to operate the route between the capital’s old airport and the city in northeastern Thailand until December last year and now relaunches operations; now with three weekly flights operated by Nok Mini (previously SGA Airlines) with 33-seat Saab 340 aircraft.
- Oman Air added Iran to its network on 1 September when the airline connected its Muscat (MCT) hub with Iran’s capital Tehran (IKA). Flights are operated daily with new E-175 aircraft configured with 71 seats. Oman Air’s CEO Wayne Pearce commented: “We are extremely pleased to be launching our new service between Muscat and Tehran and to be offering customers the opportunity to travel aboard our outstanding Embraer 175 regional jets. Tehran offers visitors the opportunity to gain insights into not only Iran’s unique culture, but also its rich and ancient history. Furthermore, Tehran is a major business hub and we anticipate strong demand from both business and leisure passengers.”
- Ryanair strengthened its position at Warsaw Modlin (WMI), adding four new destinations to its already existing network of eight routes to the recently opened low-cost airport serving the Polish capital. On 1 September, thrice-weekly services each were launched from the northern-Italian city of Bologna (BLQ), which is the subject of this week’s anna.aero airport analysis, and Manchester (MAN) in the UK. On 2 and 3 September respectively, services from Weeze (NRN) in Germany and Barcelona (BCN) in Spain were launched. While flights to Weeze are offered with four-weekly frequencies, Barcelona is served with half that frequency. The Catalan city is also the only destination out of the four where Ryanair faces competition. Thrice-weekly flights are offered by Wizz Air from Warsaw Modlin, while LOT Polish Airlines provides further indirect competition with a daily service from Warsaw Chopin Airport.
- SAS Scandinavian Airlines launched two international services from Norway’s capital Oslo (OSL) in the last week; both with its fleet of 737 aircraft and both that until recently were operated by other airlines. On 30 August, the Star Alliance airline began operating twice-weekly to the capital of the Czech Republic, Prague (PRG), in competition with Norwegian’s 10 flights a week. SAS has previously operated the route between 2003 and 2006. Czech Airlines also operated the route, but it was dropped from the airline’s network in March this year. On 2 September, SAS also began serving Denmark’s second-largest airport Billund (BLL) from the Norwegian capital, having just resumed services to the airport from Copenhagen. Flights operate six times weekly. The route, which was previously operated by now bankrupt Cimber Sterling, is also served by two competing airlines; British Airways (Sun-Air) 11 times weekly and Norwegian also six times a week.
- Shandong Airlines, which mainly operates domestic routes within China, launched its second Japanese route on 3 September. The airline now connects Qingdao (TAO) on eastern China’s coast with Tokyo Narita (NRT) with thrice-weekly frequencies. All flights on the 1,800-kilometre route are operated using the airline’s fleet of 737-800s. ANA and China Eastern already serve the route with seven and four weekly frequencies respectively. Shandong Airlines’ only other route to Japan is the twice-weekly service from Jinan to Osaka Kansai, which was launched in early March.
- Solomon Airlines, flag carrier of the Pacific state of Solomon Islands, expanded the domestic network it offers from its base in Honiara (HIR) with services to both Auki (AKS) on Malaita Island, and Jajao (JJA) on St Isabel Island. Three and two weekly services are offered respectively, all of which will be operated with the airline’s Britten-Norman Islander aircraft seating up to nine passengers.
- TRIP, the Brazilian domestic airline, further improved the connectivity between Cuiaba (CGB) and the Brazilian interior, as it launched services to Cacoal (OAC) on 2 September. Better known as Capital do Café Airport, the current facility was built in Cacoal as recently as 2009 and serves the Brazilian state of Rondônia. TRIP now offers six weekly flights on the route, which it operates with ATR 42s, as well as providing connecting opportunities.
- Turkish Airlines commenced thrice-weekly flights on the route from Istanbul Atatürk (IST) to Sebha (SEB) in the south-west of Libya. Flights on the 2,000-kilometre route will be offered with the Star Alliance airline’s 159-seat A320 aircraft on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays. Turkish Airlines already serve three other destinations in the North African country – Tripoli, Misrata and Benghazi.
- United Airlines began flying the 1,300-kilometre route between Denver, CO (DEN) and Shreveport, LA (SHV) on 28 August. Daily flights are now offered to the airport serving north Louisiana, east Texas and southwest Arkansas, and will be operated with ExpressJet’s 50-seat ERJ145s. This is United’s second route to Shreveport after its multiple-daily operations from Houston.
- VivaColombia, which recently turned three-month old, further strengthened its offering from Medellín (MDE) on 1 September. Montería (MTR), which is located only 300 kilometres to the north from the Antioquian capital, as well as the Caribbean island of San Andres (ADZ) are now served with three and four weekly flights respectively. Copa’s daily service provides competition on the route to San Andres, while LAN offers 14 weekly flights from Enrique Olaya Herrera Airport, Medellín’s regional airport.