Route of the Week
Virgin America’s Los Angeles and San Francisco to Cancun
Mike Malinin, Robby Takac and John Rzeznik from the rock band the Goo Goo Dolls joined Virgin America’s VP airports & guest services Ross Bonanno in cutting the ribbon for the airline’s first flight from Los Angeles to Cancun. The band then flew down to Virgin America’s second Mexican destination, while, TV presenter Jim Shearer recorded an episode of VH1’s Top 20 Video Countdown onboard the flight.
- Virgin America, which just unveiled major expansion plans with the order of 60 further Airbus aircraft, added its second Mexican destination to its California network after the launch of flights to Los Cabos in December. Its premium product A320 series aircraft now serve Cancún (CUN) on the Yucatán Peninsula. From Los Angeles, CA (LAX), flights are operated five times weekly in competition with United and Delta’s each weekly flights, while Virgin America’s new San Francisco, CA (SFO) service operates three times a week in competition with United’s again weekly flights. Alejandro Vales, ASUR’s Customer and Route Development Director, commented: “The Virgin America brand is most welcome in Cancun, the number one leisure destination in Latin America and the Caribbean. We in ASUR cannot think of a better match: Virgin America, Cancun and traveling in high style.”
Cake of the Week
Hainan Airlines’ Hangzhou-Shenzhen-Sydney
The spectacular cake that was baked to celebrate Hainan Airlines’ arrival in Sydney featured a delicious-looking aircraft in the clouds over Australia, complete with Tasmania and a miniature Sydney Harbour skyline. Cutting the cake are Wei Hou, Hainan Airlines’ Chief Marketing Officer; Captain Jianping Wen; Shan Hu, PRC’s Consul-General to Sydney; Wen Zhang, Deputy Mayor, City of Shenzhen; and Russell Balding, CEO Sydney Airport.
- Hainan Airlines, which just became a Skytrax 5-star airline, expanded into Australia as it launched services to Sydney (SYD) on 19 January. Flights originate in Hangzhou (HGH) near Shanghai and operate via Shenzhen (SZX) on the mainland side of the border to Hong Kong. The service operates three times weekly with A330 aircraft. This makes Hainan Airlines the fourth airline from Mainland China to serve Sydney after Air China, China Southern and China Eastern. No airline competes directly on the same city pairs, but Air China, China Eastern and Qantas all fly to and from Shanghai Pudong and Cathay Pacific, Qantas and Virgin Atlantic from Hong Kong. Commenting Sydney’s boost in capacity to China, Russell Balding, CEO Sydney Airport, said: “NSW is home to about 55% of the population of Chinese born people who live in Australia” and continued: “The 2010 figures on flights to China including both Australians outbound and Chinese inbound show exceptional growth at 26.2% over the numbers for 2009.”
The rest of this week’s new routes
There was a festive spirit in Miri as AirAsia launched flights to Singapore from the airport in northern Sarawak on Borneo. The oil city is now connected with the city state of Singapore four times a week. (Photos: Jong Kiat Ngo/International Times)
- AirAsia on 21 January relaunched services between the Borneo oil city of Miri (MYY) and Singapore (SIN). The airline last connected the two airports between September 2009 and March 2010. Flights will now operate four times weekly on the 1,150-kilometre route with 180-seat A320s. There is no non-stop competition on the route, but Malaysia Airlines operates a daily one-stop service via Kuching.
- Asky Airlines, the Togo-based airline whose flights are operated by Ethiopian Airlines, launched a new stopping route on 18 January. From its Lomé (LFW) base, the airline’s 78-seat Q400 operates twice a week to Cotonou (COO) in Benin before continuing to Bangui (BGF) in the Central African Republic, Yaounde (NSI) in Cameroon, and Lagos (LOS) in Nigeria before returning to Lomé. Although the service is operated back to the airport of origin, it is a return service also operating back in the opposite direction; Lomé-Lagos-Yaounde-Bangui-Cotonou-Lomé. The connections to Bangui and Yaounde are new to the airline, whereas it already operated to Cotonou and Lagos.
- flydubai began serving its third Saudi Arabian destination on 18 January when the low-cost carrier connected its Dubai (DXB) base with Buraydah (ELQ) in Al-Qassim Province in central Saudi Arabia, known for its agricultural exports. The three weekly 737-800 flights on the 1,170-kilometre route is the second international connection to the Saudi airport after AlMasria Universal Airlines’ Cairo service.
Gulf Air’s Deputy CEO Maher Al Musallam and CEO Samer Majali inaugurated the new service to Addis Ababa with senior management officials from the airline and Bahrain Civil Aviation Affairs.
- Gulf Air added its fourth African destination on 19 January when the airline added a connection between its Bahrain (BAH) base and Addis Ababa (ADD), the capital of Ethiopia. Flights initially operate four times weekly with 136-seat A320s, but frequencies increase to five weekly flights from the start of the summer season. The competitor on the route, Ethiopian Airlines, normally operates the route daily, but has temporarily suspended its services between 13 January and 16 February. The two airlines will, however, code share on the route. Gulf Air’s CEO Samer Majali commented: “We are confident this new route will be a success for both our passenger and cargo operations, and we look forward to facilitating business and leisure traffic between the two countries and beyond.”
- Icelandair launched a weekly service from its Reykjavik (KEF) hub to Munich (MUC) on 22 January. The airline has previously operated flights seasonally during summer only in competition with airberlin, but the new flights, which operate with the airline’s 757-200s, are scheduled for the winter ski season until the beginning of March.
Although no celebrations were held for Malaysia Airlines, which already serves Osaka Kansai from Kuala Lumpur, the airport photographer was on site to document the arrival of a Kota Kinabalu service to the Japanese airport.
- Malaysia Airlines continued expanding its secondary hub in Kota Kinabalu (BKI). On 18 January, the airline launched two weekly flights to Osaka Kansai (KIX), its second Japanese destination from the north Borneo airport after Tokyo Haneda service, which replaced the airline’s Tokyo Narita flights in November. Malaysia Airlines already serves Osaka Kansai from its Kuala Lumpur hub. The new 3,720-kilometre service is operated with 737-800 aircraft.
Shenzhen Airlines’ GM Xue Dongquan spoke in Wuxi and started the touch launch ball for the new route to Tokyo Narita together with local government representatives, one of which boarded the aircraft to pose with the cabin crew prior to the maiden flight.
- Shenzhen Airlines on 21 January launched its fourth Japanese route as the airline began serving Tokyo Narita (NRT) from Wuxi (WUX) near Shanghai. The four weekly 737-800 flights complement the airline’s existing route from Fuzhou. In Japan, the airline also already serves Osaka Kansai from both Wuxi and Fuzhou.
Passengers were welcomed to Thai AirAsia’s new Chiang Mai base with necklaces. VIP guests at the event were Inthira Vutthisomboon from Tourism Authority of Thailand’s (TAT) Singapore office; Tassapon Bijleveld, CEO of Thai AirAsia; the Thai Ambassador to Singapore, Nopadol Gunavibool; the Deputy Governor of Chiang Mai; and the director of TAT’s Chiang Mai office.
- Thai AirAsia on 24 January launched two new routes from Chiang Mai (CNX), the largest city in northern Thailand. With the airline’s 180-seat A320s, each daily services are operated to Hat Yai (HDY), located in the south of the country, and Singapore (SIN). Competition on the Singapore route comes from SilkAir’s three weekly flights, whereas the Hat Yai service is uncontested. The last time a low-cost airline operated on the Singapore route was Tiger Airways’ operation 2005-2008, while no airline has flown non-stop between Chiang Mai and Hat Yai since 1996.
Last week’s new route launches
Robert Piltz, Hamburg Airport’s Key Account Manager Aviation Marketing, celebrated the new OLT route to Rotterdam with the inaugural flight’s captain, cabin attendant and the airline’s CEO Joachim van Grieken.
Armavia arrived in Bratislava and it sure wasn’t with a CRJ200 for the inaugural flight. The Armenian dancers got much publicity in the Slovakian market for the weekly service.