- easyJet returned to Zurich recently after a near three-year absence. Double-daily services from London Luton re-started on 18 September having been abandoned at the end of the summer 2004 season due to claims of excessive airport charges. Fares now start at just £28 (€42) for a one-way ticket. The airline expects to carry 160,000 passengers on the route in the next 12 months.The UK to Zurich market has been a duopoly between British Airways and Swiss since helvetic pulled off the London Luton route in the middle of 2006. Despite 10% growth in the market last year traffic between Zurich and the UK is still well below the peak of 1.74 million passengers achieved in 2000. The joint hosting by Austria and Switzerland of next year’s European football championships is likely to have a positive effect on Swiss inbound tourism, especially from football fans in the UK (especially if any teams from the UK qualify).
- Estonian Air subsidiary Estonian Air Regional has launched new direct services from Tallinn to Helsinki and Vilnius using 33-seat Saab 340s. Helsinki is served 19 times per week and Vilnius 12 times per week.
- Ryanair launched the next phase of its route expansion from Bremen this week with the addition of a third B737-800 to be based at the airport. A total of 21 new weekly services will be added with new routes to Paris Beauvais (daily), Bratislava (three per week), Malta (three per week), Trapani (two per week), Milan Bergamo (four per week) and Alghero (two per week). Analysis of traffic data for Ryanair’s first three months of flights at the airport suggest the market is taking its time to respond to Ryanair’s offers. Network load factors between April and June were below 60% with only Barcelona Girona (73.7%), Malaga (71.7%) and Tampere (71.1%) achieving average load factors of over 70%. Pisa and Oslo Torp have so far failed to achieve 50% average load factors which does not bode well for their futures.
- Iceland Express became the unlikely winner of the ‘first LCC to Luxembourg’ award when it began twice weekly services this week from Reykjavik (Keflavik Airport) to Luxembourg’s Findel airport. The service continues on Tuesdays and Fridays until 9th November. The scheduled flight time is around three and a half hours. Iceland Express currently operates a fleet of three MD90s provided by Hello AG in Switzerland and is now owned by the same people who own Copenhagen-based Sterling.
Middle East round-up
- Qatar Airways has started operating from Doha to Nagpur. The route will be served twice-weekly by an A320 and becomes the airline’s seventh destination in India and brings to 44 the number of flights Qatar Airways operates between Doha and India. The inaugural flight was greeted by a water cannon salute and the Civil Aviation Minister of India was among the guests welcoming the new service.
- Oman Air has begun its first services to Saudi Arabia by launching twice-weekly services from Muscat Seeb international airport to Jeddah and Riyadh using 737s. This follows the withdrawal of Gulf Air from these routes.
- Etihad has added another connection to Australia with the commencement of flights from Abu Dhabi to Brisbane via Singapore. Services operate three times per week. The new route is partly in response to Gulf Air pulling its Bahrain service to Singapore.