New airline routes launched (14 – 20 August 2012)
Route of the Week: Virgin America’s San Francisco to Washington National
- Virgin America has launched the new key route between its main base in San Francisco, CA (SFO) and the US capital’s downtown airport Washington National, VA (DCA). The flights, which are assigned the flights numbers VX1 (and VX2 on the return), are operated daily with the airline’s A320s in competition with United’s also daily flights that launched in May. “As the only airline based in California, we’re pleased to bring new competition to this important – and currently underserved – route from the West Coast,” said Virgin America’s President and CEO David Cush. “We benefitted from a groundswell of community support in our bid to fly to DCA. We know both business flyers and technologically-savvy leisure travelers will enjoy having a new nonstop flight option that allows them to stay connected and productive en route to our nation’s capital.”
Cake of the Week: United’s San Francisco to Raleigh-Durham
- United Airlines launched a new domestic route on 14 August between San Francisco, CA (SFO) and Raleigh-Durham, NC (RDU) – a city pair that remarkably has never before been connected non-stop, in spite of the considerable demand and strong business links between the two regions. US DOT O&D data (through Diio Mi) reveals that 800 passengers a day already travel between RDU and California. The new 3,860-kilometre transcontinental route is now operated daily with 154-seat 737-800 aircraft. This is the second route between Raleigh-Durham and California after Delta’s three flights a week from Los Angeles.
The rest of this week’s new routes
- eurolot relaunched a Polish domestic route as a consequence of the demise of OLT Express at the end of last month. The state-owned regional carrier again flies between Krakow (KRK) in the south and Poznan (POZ) in the west of the country, a route that it previously operated between November 2011 and June this year, when the route was suspended due to competition from OLT Express. With the competitor now out of the market, eurolot again operates the domestic route 11 times weekly with 64-seat ATR 72 aircraft.
- Firefly, Malaysia Airlines’ regional subsidiary, continued expanding its international network, launching a new route to Thailand on 17 August. The airline now flies from its main base at Kuala Lumpur Subang (SZB) to Hat Yai (HDY) in southern Thailand. The 440-kilometre route is operated four times weekly with 72-seat ATR 72 aircraft. Indirect competition at Kuala Lumpur’s main airport comes from AirAsia’s daily flights.
- Brazil’s second-largest airline GOL, which is analysed by anna.aero this week, took on its bigger rival TAM on 15 August by expanding into two neighbouring countries’ capitals. From the airline’s main hub at São Paulo Guarulhos (GRU), GOL now flies daily to Paraguay’s capital Asunción (ASU) as well as Uruguay’s capital Montevideo (MVD). Both routes are operated with 737-800 aircraft and face competition from twice-daily operations on TAM; in the case of the Asunción route operated by TAM’s Paraguayan subsidiary. The route to Uruguay’s capital was previously also operated by the country’s national carrier Pluna, which ceased operations last month. GOL previously served Asunción from Curitiba (CWB) in southern Brazil, continuing onward to the capital of Argentina, Buenos Aires (EZE). The new non-stop route to Paraguay’s capital from São Paulo results in this route being dropped. Instead, a new daily non-stop connection between Curitiba (CWB) and Buenos Aires also launched on 15 August with 737-800s.
- The Swedish regional airline Höga Kusten Flyg launched a domestic route on 20 August that previously was operated by now bankrupt Skyways. The virtual airline, which normally flies between Örnsköldsvik in northern Sweden and the country capital’s main airport Stockholm Arlanda (ARN), now also flies from the capital 15 times weekly to Jönköping (JKG) in south-central Sweden. Initially, flights are operated with F50s by the Dutch airline Denim Air, but the intention is for Golden Air’s Saab 2000s, also with 50 seats, to operate the route. Competition comes from 13 flights a week on Flyglinjen, which was quicker to move in to take up the route after Skyways. Flyglinjen also provides further indirect competition between Jönköping and Stockholm’s city airport Bromma with 10 weekly flights.
- Mahan Air expanded its network to Southeast Asia on 14 August when the private Iranian airline connected Tehran (IKA) with the capital of Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur (KUL). Due to bilateral limitations, flights are operated with two weekly frequencies only, using 195-seat A310 aircraft. Mahan Air has already been serving Kuala Lumpur from two other Iranian airports, Mashhad and Shiraz, since 2010. Competition on the route between the two country capitals comes from IranAir’s five flights a week and AirAsia X’s four weekly operations.
- The Philippine low-cost airline SEAIR, which was analysed earlier this month, has continued its domestic expansion out of the country capital’s main airport in Manila (MNL). The airline, which partners with Tiger Airways of Singapore, launched twice-daily flights to Davao (DVO) in the south of the country on 18 August and daily operations to Bacolod (BCD) in central Philippines on 20 August. Both routes are highly competitive with the Davao route facing competition from Cebu Pacific’s 56, Philippine Airlines’ 35, Airphil Express’ 16 and Zest Air’s 14 flights a week, while the Bacolod route is operating against three airlines; Cebu Pacific with 35, Philippine Airlines with 28 and Airphil Express with 21 weekly flights.
- SpiceJet further expanded its international network on 14 August when the Indian low-cost airline launched three weekly flights between the capitals of India and Afghanistan; Delhi (DEL) and Kabul (KBL). Kabul becomes the airline’s fourth international destination after Kathmandu, Colombo and Dubai. The flights, which are operated with 189-seat 737-800 aircraft, mark the first low-cost service between the two capitals, although four other airlines operate the route; Kam Air daily, Ariana Afghan Airlines six times weekly, and Safi Airways and Air India each four times a week.
- Thai Smile, Thai Airways’ new low-cost subsidiary that is to be positioned as a premium regional carrier, took over a domestic service from its parent airline on 16 August. From its Bangkok (BKK) base, the A320 operator now flies twice-daily to Surat Thani (URT) in the south of Thailand. Thai Airways previously operated the route with 149-seat, two-class 737-400s, whereas Thai Smile’s aircraft are configured with 174 seats in an all-economy configuration. Competition comes from Thai AirAsia’s also twice-daily flights.