Route of the Week:
UTair’s Moscow Vnukovo to Riga
Increased competition on the popular Moscow-Riga route was celebrated at the Latvian airport with a cake cut by Viacheslav Plasukhin, UTair Deputy Director of Commerce and Head of the Commercial Transport Complex, watched by Janis Kuzulis of Riga Airport’s board.
- UTair began daily flights using a CRJ200 from Moscow Vnukovo (VKO) to Riga (RIX) in Latvia on 16 August. There are already daily flights between Moscow Sheremetyevo and Riga, operated by Aeroflot (daily) and airBaltic (twice daily). In the first six months of this year, UTair has seen its passenger numbers increase by 47% to 2.1 million passengers. It expects to carry more than 4.8 million passengers during 2010, an increase of 34% on 2009. Viacheslav Pļasukhin, UTair Deputy Director of Commerce and Head of the Commercial Transport Complex, said: “The beginning of our airline’s flights between Riga and Moscow is a step forward! RIGA International Airport and the airline UTair as well as both our countries will benefit from it, as the citizens of Russia and Latvia will have more and better travel opportunities. Riga will become our gateway to Europe while Moscow will be the gateway of Latvia’s people to other towns of Russia.”
Cake of the Week:
TAM’s Rio de Janeiro to Frankfurt
TAM’s Rio route was welcomed to Frankfurt with an enormous cake, which was cut by Martin Bein, Fraport’s SVP Traffic and Terminal Management, and Jose Sales Filho, TAM’s Director Europe, Middle East & Asia. Music was provided by the Brazilian duo Trem Mineiro.
- It has been a momentous week for Brazil’s biggest airline TAM. Just a few days before announcing its planned merger with LAN, on 10 August, the carrier began two new long-haul routes from Rio De Janeiro (GIG) to Europe. A new three-times weekly service to London Heathrow (LHR) will link the next two Olympics-hosting cities together. TAM’s Commercial and Planning VP, Paulo Castello Branco, points out: “We noted steady and continuous growth in passenger demand between London and Rio de Janeiro in our flights between São Paulo and Heathrow over the past three and half years. We therefore concluded that this is the time to offer our clients the comfort and convenience of travelling directly from Rio to London, strengthening our operations in Galeão Airport, which is our second international hub in Brazil. Our monthly average of passengers transported between Brazil and the U.K. increased from 9.5 thousand passengers in 2007 to 10.9 thousand in 2008, 15.6 thousand in 2009, and 17.2 thousand in the period of January to May this year, revealing substantial growth of 81% over this period. The average monthly load factor of the flight evolved from 73.8% in 2007 to 79.8% in the following year, after dropping to 71.8% in 2009 due to the international economic crisis, recovering the growth curve with an average load factor of 82.3% in the initial five months of 2010”. A second European destination, Frankfurt (FRA), will be served five-times weekly. As a member of Star Alliance, this will provide a direct link from Rio to the home airport of Lufthansa, the biggest European carrier in the alliance. As with the case of London Heathrow, TAM already serves Frankfurt from São Paulo Guarulhos. Both new routes are operated by A330-200s. British Airways already operates three weekly flights on the London route, while Air France, Iberia and TAP Portugal also link Rio to their respective European capital cities.
The rest of this week’s new routes
OK, don't write in, we know this is Durban. But, other than Allegiant, we don’t get too many opportunities to produce nice pictures of MD80s these days, and we’re told the celebrations for this route won't happen for a few weeks yet - when we get them you'll be the first to know.
- The South African low-cost carrier 1time on 12 August launched five weekly services between its Johannesburg (JNB) base and Maputo (MPM), the capital of neighbouring Mozambique, using 132-seat MD87 aircraft. This is the airline’s third international destination, following flights to Zanzibar and Livingstone. Competition on the new route comes from LAM’s three flights a day and almost the same frequency (20 weekly flights) on South African Airways.
Helsinki Airport’s VP Jukka Isomäki and Finnair’s VP Global Brand & Marketing Communications Jarkko Konttinen opened the new business travel-targeted route to Stockholm Bromma…
…as well as the route to Stuttgart. The new service is scheduled to connect well with both Finnish domestic services and Asian flights.
- Finnair launched two routes from its Helsinki (HEL) hub on 16 August. The airline now flies 10 times a week to Stuttgart (STR) in southwest Germany, operating daily, except on Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays, when the airline flies twice-daily. Finnair also began flying 11 times a week to Stockholm Bromma (BMA), making it one of two airlines this week to begin operating the route to the Swedish capital’s city airport, along with Sun-Air (see below). Petteri Kostermaa, Finnair’s VP Network Strategy, commented: “The new super-fast connection serves our business customers better, especially those who travel frequently between Helsinki and Stockholm.” Flights operate twice a day Monday to Friday and once on Sundays. Both routes are operated with 76-seat E-170 equipment. The Stuttgart route is operated by Finncomm Airlines, which interestingly leases its E-170s from Finnair. Although the Stuttgart route faces no direct competition, the Bromma services are operated against code-share partner Sun-Air/BA (see below). The flights complement services between Helsinki and Stockholm’s main airport Arlanda, a route also operated by Finnair as well as Norwegian, Blue1 and SAS. Notably, Finnair has operated both of this week’s ‘new’ routes in the past. While Stuttgart was dropped as recently as October 2009, the airline resurrects Bromma flights after a hiatus of an entire 48 years.
- Skymark introduced almost daily flights from Kitakyushu (KKJ) to both Tokyo Haneda (HND) and Okinawa/Nahe (OKA) on 10 August. Kitakyushu is a relatively new offshore airport serving Fukuoka, which opened in 2006 with a 2,500 metre long runway. The airline is taking advantage of the fact that all three airports are now open for flights around the clock. A 737-800 departs Tokyo at 21:40, arriving in Kitakyushu at 23:20. This aircraft then departs at 00:20, landing at Okinawa at 02:10 in the morning. After operating some other sectors from Okinawa, the aircraft departs Okinawa at 20:00, landing at Kitakyushu at 21:40. Forty minutes later, the aircraft is back in the year heading for Tokyo where it arrives at midnight. These routes are the 11th and 12th to be operated by Skymark. Two further routes will open on 1 September with another one launching on 1 October. According to CH-Aviation, the airline currently operates a fleet of 13 737-800s.
- Southwest introduced non-stop double-daily flights between Minneapolis/St Paul (MSP) and Phoenix (PHX), a distance of just over 2,000 kilometres, on 15 August. The route is already served by Delta (with six daily flights) and US Airways (with four daily flights). For Southwest, this is its fourth route from Minneapolis/St Paul and 45th from Phoenix. Prior to this, the airline offered one-stop flights between the two airports via its hubs in Chicago Midway, Denver and St. Louis.
- Sun-Air of Scandinavia, the British Airways franchisee and oneworld affiliate member, like Finnair launched flights between Stockholm Bromma (BMA) and Helsinki (HEL) on 16 August. The airline, which already serves Bromma from the Danish cities of Århus and Billund, will serve the Finnish capital with 10 weekly flights on Fairchild Dornier 328JETs. Rather than competing, the two oneworld partners Sun-Air and Finnair (see above) code-share on the route, providing complementing frequencies.
- Vietnam Airlines has resumed services between Ho Chi Minh City (SGN) and Nagoya (NGO) in Japan on 13 August. Flights were suspended in December 2007 after two and a half years of operation, but have now been resumed twice weekly (Monday and Friday) using an A321. The carrier already serves Fukuoka (twice weekly), Osaka Kansai (daily) and Tokyo Narita (twice daily) from Ho Chi Minh City. It also serves all four of these Japanese destinations from its base at Hanoi.