|Having been left without a local airline, Lithuania saw the start-up of the new airline Star1 Airlines in July this year. Star1’s first route was from the its Vilnius base to London Stansted, a route here inaugurated by the Lithuanian transport minister Eligijus Masiulis and Star1 Airlines’ CEO Martynas Laivys.|
When Lithuania’s flyLAL, previously state-owned under the name Lithuanian Airlines, suspended operations in January this year Vilnius airport lost one third of its route network. Around the same time, airBaltic from neighbouring Latvia reduced its presence at Vilnius, which had been the airline’s secondary hub.
Of those eager to fill this sudden gap in the market, the start-up low-cost carrier Star1 Airlines was first and instantly became the new de facto national carrier of Lithuania upon starting operations in July.
|Source: OAG Max Online for w/c 7 December 2009|
airBaltic may be the biggest carrier but it only operates three routes; to Copenhagen, Riga and Tallinn. However, it does serve its home base of Riga with five daily flights.
Star1, clearly appreciating how the recent negative economic development in Lithuania had affected its predecessors, has had a conservative approach to its route network. Star1 currently only operates a single 148-seat 737-700 for both its scheduled and charter operations, the latter being performed on behalf of its in-house tour operator Star1 Holidays. This means that the aircraft this winter only performs six scheduled return trips a week.
London and Dublin face competition from Aer Lingus, Ryanair
|London Stansted (STN)||4||None in direct competition
To London Gatwick (LGW): Aer Lingus (7)
From Kaunas (KUN) to London Stansted (STN): Ryanair (12)
From Kaunas (KUN) to London Luton (LTN): Ryanair (4)
|Milan Malpensa (MXP)||2||None|
|Dublin (DUB)||3 (summer only)||Aer Lingus (4)
From Kaunas (KUN): Ryanair (4)
|Girona (GRO)||2 (summer only)||None|
|Source: OAG Max Online for w/c 7 December 2009 and w/c 7 September 2009
*WF: Weekly frequency
Aer Lingus, the second largest airline in Vilnius, provides the greatest competition to Star1, although the airline serves different London airports. On both the London and Dublin routes, Aer Lingus offers more frequencies and the Dublin route operates year-round. With Vilnius and Kaunas airports less than 100 kilometres apart, Ryanair’s Kaunas-based operations can also be considered to compete with Star1.
|Signs of summer: Star1’s first flight to London Stansted was celebrated with strawberries at Vilnius airport. The four weekly services will increase to five weekly at the beginning of next year.|
The first two scheduled routes to have been launched, London Stansted and Dublin, can be expected to be largely aimed at the expatriate Lithuanian population in the UK and Ireland. Around Christmas and New Year’s, Star1 operates additional flights to Dublin, bringing Lithuanians in the British Isles home for the holidays. The market for this kind of traffic is even considered to be so great that the Lithuanian charter carrier Aurela Airlines temporarily enters the scheduled business by operating in competition with Star1 on both the London Stansted and Dublin routes over the holiday period.
airBaltic plans renewed growth
Next year, Star1 will have a second aircraft delivered. The airline has previously expressed interest in increasing frequency on the London route as well as starting to serve Paris. However, airBaltic has since announced that it will again increase its presence in Vilnius. Among airBaltic’s five new routes, all scheduled to start in the next two months, is Paris Charles de Gaulle.