|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…
Following 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.
|Source: Bratislava Airport, Kosice Airport|
|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)|
|Source: OAG Max Online for July 2008|
|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.
|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.
|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.
|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).