New routes launched during the last fortnight (Saturday 15 March – Friday 28 March 2008)
Bulgaria Air has launched its sixth destination in Spain by starting flights between Sofia (SOF) and Valencia (VLC). Initially, flights will operate just on Saturday, but from 21 April there will also be a Monday service. One of the airline’s 737-300s is likely to operate the service. Things will get much more competitive when Wizz Air starts its own thrice-weekly service between the two airports in July.
Cebu Pacific launches its second route to Caticlan (MPH) in the space of a month. Having begun flights from Manila at the end of last month the airline is starting daily services from Cebu (CEB) from Friday 28 March. Last year the airline carried almost 5.5 million passengers, an impressive 58% more than in 2006. System-wide load factors increased from 75.3% in 2006 to 81.7%. International traffic more than doubled to just over one million passengers as the airline introduced new routes to Guangzhou, Jakarta, Macau, Shanghai, Taipei and Xiamen. This year a total of 10 new aircraft (six ATRs and four A320s) will be delivered to Cebu Pacific helping to maintain its average fleet age at under two years. According to the airline the Philippines is the third fastest growing domestic airline market (+23% in 2007 to almost 10.4 million passengers) after India (+33%) and Mexico (+27%). During 2007 Cebu Pacific retired the last of its DC9s focusing on its Airbus A319 and A320 fleet.
easyJet began two new daily services on 20 March from its Luton (LTN) HQ. The new Jersey (JER) route signals the airline’s first appearance in the Channel Islands. Last summer Thomsonfly operated between Luton and Jersey, but has chosen not to repeat the exercise this year. The new Luton (LTN) to Pisa (PSA) route will complement the airline’s existing London Gatwick service which began last April. Last year the UK to Pisa market grew by 17% to pass the one million mark for the first time. easyJet also operates to Pisa from its Berlin, Bristol and Paris Orly bases even though it is a base for arch-rival Ryanair.
Eurofly began serving Moscow Domodedovo (DME) from its Bologna (BLQ) base on 18 March. The route will operate twice-weekly on Tuesday and Friday using an A320. The airline has been operating to Moscow from its Naples base since 2005.
jetBlue recently added Jacksonville (JAX) to its Boston (BOS) route network. Daily flights using one of the airline’s Embraer 190s began on 15 March. Jacksonville is the 28th destination to be served by jetBlue from Boston and the sixth in Florida. The route is currently served 11 times weekly by Comair on behalf of Delta using a 50-seat CRJ. In 2007 Jacksonville handled over 6.3 million passengers, which is impressive for an airport that most people outside of the US have probably never heard of.
Lufthansa has linked the Spanish island of Ibiza (IBZ) to its Dűsseldorf (DUS) and Hamburg (HAM) bases with the launch of weekly Saturday services from 15 March. Both routes will be operated by 737s.
Monarch has started serving Larnaca (LCA) from its London Gatwick (LGW) base to complement its existing London Luton service. In 2007 traffic between the UK and Larnaca was up less than one percent at 1.564 million passengers. However, traffic to Cyprus as a whole from the UK was actually down 1.2% to 2.969 million. The airline has also started serving Mahon/Menorca (MAH) from London Gatwick (LGW) bringing the number of scheduled destinations served from Gatwick back up to 10. Granada and Lisbon, which were both served from Gatwick last summer, have not been re-introduced this year.
Norwegian has recently begun serving Belgrade (BEG) and Valencia (VLC) from its new base at Oslo-Rygge (RYG) airport. Both routes will be served twice weekly and are the 12th and 13th destinations now offered by Norwegian from this new commercial airport south of Oslo. Norwegian started serving both Belgrade and Valencia from Olso Gardermoen last summer, but has decided to move both of these predominantly leisure routes to its secondary Oslo airport for this summer. In 2007 passenger traffic at Belgrade’s Nikola Tesla airport was up 13% to 2.513 million, while movements increased just 3%.
Philippine Airlines (PAL) has begun serving two new destinations in Western China from its Manila (MNL) base. Both Chengdu (CTU) and Chongqing (CKG) will be served twice weekly using 156-seat A320s. These two airports, which are less than 300 kilometres apart, represent PAL’s fourth and fifth routes to China as Shanghai, Xiamen and Beijing are already served. It also brings to 25 the number of international destinations served by PAL in 13 countries, in addition to the 18 cities it serves in its home market.
Just one new route to report from Ryanair this week. People living near Shannon (SNN) can now fly thrice-weekly to Palma de Mallorca (PMI). Before last summer Ryanair did not serve the Balearic Islands capital (and Spain’s third busiest airport) but by the end of this summer it will be served from 10 of Ryanair’s bases – Bournemouth, Bremen, Dublin, Edinburgh, Frankfurt Hahn, Liverpool, London Stansted, Reus (Barcelona), Shannon and Weeze (Dűsseldorf). Pisa was also linked last summer but appears to have been dropped, at least for now. The Reus to Palma route at just 222 kilometres is among the shortest in Ryanair’s network. Palma is a major hub for fellow European LCC Air Berlin.
Singapore Airlines, fresh from launching A380 operations to London Heathrow, has begun serving Houston Intercontinental (IAH) with a four-times weekly service that goes via Moscow Domodedovo (DME) Airport. Given the current world focus on energy markets linking Houston and Moscow is an interesting idea. Flights will be operated with a 777-300ER. For Houston this marks the addition of not one but two new international markets.
Southwest’s Philadelphia (PHL) base benefited from the launch of three new routes recently. Austin (AUS) and San Antonio (SAT) in Texas will both be served daily while St. Louis (STL) is treated to two daily flights. The Philadelphia to St. Louis route is currently served by both American Airlines and US Airways, while both the Texas routes are totally new. Southwest is the second largest carrier in Philadelphia after US Airways. In 2007 Philadelphia’s passenger numbers climbed 1.4% to 32.2 million.
Virgin America added Seattle (SEA) to its growing network when it began thrice daily services from San Francisco (SFO) on 18 March. The route is already served by Alaska Airlines (48 weekly flights) and United Airlines (with 49 weekly flights). In 2007 Seattle’s airport traffic increased by 4.3% to 31.3 million. Alaska Airlines is by far the busiest airline at the airport handling nearly 11 million passengers last year, which represents a 35% market share.
Another week, another couple of new links between the UK and Poland. On Saturday 15 March Wizz Air began serving Bournemouth (BOH) and Coventry (CVT) from its Gdansk (GDN) base. Both routes will be served thrice weekly with the airline’s 180-seat A320s. A further new route linking Gdansk (GDN) with Gothenburg City airport (GSE) also started the same day. To mark the occasion Wizz Air handed out a range of Polish delicacies (including Polish bread with traditional lard, Polish herring and genuine Polish gherkins) to passengers arriving in Gdansk. Wizz Air is by far the largest airline at Gdansk and these latest routes brings to 14 the number of destinations served with two more (Turku and Barcelona Girona) starting in the next few weeks. Not all UK – Poland routes though are guaranteed success. easyJet has recently announced that it is dropping all four of its routes to Gdansk (from Belfast, Bristol, Edinburgh and London Gatwick) between 22 April and 20 May.