Slovakia: Ryanair’s presence increasing as SkyEurope looks elsewhere for opportunities

Image: In a bid to find what works best SkyEurope has dropped as many routes from Bratislava as it currently operates (18). However, plenty is happening and the airport may grow between 15-20% in 2008.
Departures: In a bid to find what works best SkyEurope has dropped as many routes from Bratislava as it currently operates (18). However, plenty is happening and the airport may grow between 15-20% in 2008.

The story so far…

Map: SlovakiaFollowing the so-called “Velvet revolution” of 1989 (which ended communist rule in Czechoslovakia) negotiations took place during 1992 to split the country in two. On 1 January 1993 the Czech Republic and Slovakia emerged as two separate states. The national airline, CSA, remained in Prague and Slovakia found itself with no real airline to call its own and minimal air traffic at its three major airports in Bratislava, Kosice and Poprad-Tatry.

SkyEurope, which has since become the de facto national airline, began operations as a low-cost airline in 2002 using 30-seat Embraer Brasilias but soon progressed to more traditional 737s. The network grew rapidly though frequencies were low on most routes.

Chart: Slovakian airport traffic 2001-2007
Source: Bratislava Airport, Kosice Airport
Image: Slovak prime minister, Robert Fico
Just in case you didn’t know, it’s the centre of Europe – a point driven home forcefully here by Slovak prime minister, Robert Fico. Ryanair’s 10th service (to Edinburgh) will help Bratislava achieve around 20% growth this year – but it’s not a Ryanair base.

After modest growth of less than 5% in 2007, early indications suggest that Bratislava airport traffic may grow by between 15% and 20% in 2008, thanks to the recent addition of several new Ryanair services.

Bratislava: birthplace of SkyEurope

When Slovakia joined the EU in May 2004 SkyEurope’s virtual monopoly on scheduled operations at Bratislava came to an end. Austrian Airlines came and went as did easyJet (with routes to London Luton and Berlin Schönefeld) but Ryanair has been more successful. It waited until October 2005 before starting its first route (from Milan Bergamo) to the airport but now operates there from nine of its bases with Edinburgh making it 10 in September.

Airline Frequency share Capacity share Number of routes
SkyEurope 44.3% 47.1% 18 (AGP, ATH, BCN, BHX, BOJ, CTA, DBV, DUB, FCO, KSC, LTN, MAN, ORK, ORY, SAW, SKG, SPU, VAR)
Ryanair 26.4% 35.6% 9 (BGY, BHX, BRS, DUB, EMA, GRO, HHN, NYO, STN)
Air Slovakia 6.5% 8.3% 5 (ATQ, BGY, BHX, LCA, TLV)
CSA Czech Airlines 12.9% 4.7% 1 (PRG)
Lufthansa 9.0% 3.3% 1 (MUC)
Aeroflot 1.0% 0.9% 1 (SVO)
Source: OAG Max Online for July 2008
Image: SkyEurope opened a new satellite base at Kosice on 1 July
Cork Airport’s Liz O’Farrell presents an Irish crystal to the captain of the inaugural thrice-weekly SkyEurope Bratislava-Cork service which began operation last October.

SkyEurope’s network from the airport has been constantly evolving. Routes that have been tried and subsequently abandoned include (take a deep breath) Amsterdam, Basel, Berlin Tempelhof, Bucharest, Cologne/Bonn, Copenhagen, Milan Bergamo, Munich, Naples, Nice, Palma, Prague, Sofia, Stuttgart, Venice, Warsaw, Zadar and Zurich. In other words the airline has dropped as many routes from the airport (18) as it currently operates. Furthermore flights to London were moved from Stansted to Luton when Ryanair started competing directly from Stansted. It should be noted that after over six years of operations the airline has yet to report an annual profit.

The airport’s seasonality profile shows a strong summer peak in July and August. The peak to off-peak ratio is around 2.4 (August to January).

The UK is by far the leading country market with 32% of scheduled seat capacity followed by Slovakia and Ireland (10% each). A total of 16 foreign country markets are served from Bratislava.

Chart: Bratislava airport seasonality
Source: Bratislava airport

In its early days SkyEurope expected that many passengers would use Bratislava as a secondary airport for nearby Vienna where low-cost flights were virtually non-existent. However, the airline has changed its philosophy in recent years and now operates a growing base at Vienna with more routes and aircraft based there than in Bratislava.

Image: SkyEurope launches Bratislava-Istanbul services in April 2008
SkyEurope launched Bratislava-Istanbul services in April. The service is operated three times per week – Monday, Wednesday and Friday. “This connection has big potential and is in direct response to growing demand from not only business travellers but also those visiting friends and relatives or tourists travelling for city breaks, vacations or shopping,” said Steven Greenway, SkyEurope COO.

Kosice traffic up 50% in 2008

Kosice airport in the east of the country has high frequency connections to Vienna (with Austrian), Prague (with CSA Czech Airlines and SkyEurope) and Bratislava (with SkyEurope). SkyEurope also offers direct year-round services to Luton and Dublin and recently introduced seasonal services to Manchester and Split. In the first six months of 2008 traffic has grown by over 50%.

According to the airport, load factors on SkyEurope’s new routes have been highest on the Luton route followed by Dublin and Prague.

Logo: Kosice Airport & Poprad-Tatry Airport

Image: Air Slovakia
Air Slovakia certainly sounds like it is the national carrier, but it is much smaller than SkyEurope (6.5% of Bratislava traffic versus 44%) and offers an enterprising range of services from Bratislava to Amritsar, Barcelona, Bergamo, Birmingham, Kuwait, Larnaca and Tel Aviv.

Slovakia has one further commercial airport in the north of the country at Poprad-Tatry. Last year the airport handled 60,176 passengers, up 45% on 2006. The only scheduled service is to London Luton with SkyEurope which operates four times per week. Services to London were started as long ago as December 2005, though initially London Stansted was served. Passenger numbers to London grew by 73% from 19,720 in 2006 to 34,259 last year (Source: UK CAA).


  1. Tomas Rybar says:

    You missed some important information here:
    Other international airports:
    Zilina – has regular flights to Prague
    Sliac – had flights to Prague and Poprad until fairly recent termination, used also as air force base.
    Piestany – – charter flights for spa visitors coming to this town.
    These are not too important airports, but you should include their passenger numbers, including charter flights passengers, to your chart. The numbers for BTS and KSC also include charter flights.

  2. Danie AJ says:

    Sorry, the info on Air Slovakia is not up to date. The airline has suspended all of its scheduled operations with the exception of a weekly service between Bratislava and Tel Aviv. Air Slovakia now concentrates on charter and ACMI services. replies: Thanks for that correction Daniel. We rely on OAG for our schedule data and obviously nobody at Air Slovakia has bothered to tell OAG that they have virtually ceased all scheduled flights.

  3. I recently spoke to the Chairman of Air Slovakia, June 2008 in BA, and their focus has certainly been and appears to remain mainly charter for now. However, I got the feeling that scheduled flights were still being considered for the right routes.
    Poprad-Tatry, in August of 2007, achieved the same level of passenger numbers in six months as it did for the entire year of 2006. With the extra flights from Luton I am sure Poprad-Tatry will be breaking more records soon.
    The on going promotion of the Tatry region, especially Poprad, on UK TV will also assist tourism in the region. The Travel Channel, OverSeas Properties TV and even the national network channel ITV has given Poprad significant exposure recenty. Not to mention the national digital service our sister company, RTI, offers in the UK, also highlighting the benefits of the Tatry region and Poprad.

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