Blue Air celebrates 10th anniversary with new route to Liverpool; Romanian LCC faces stiff competition from Wizz Air and TAROM
Romania’s Blue Air reached a significant milestone on Saturday 13 December when it celebrated 10 years of operations. The LCC, which launched in the year when Romania joined the EU, has (according to the airline’s in-flight magazine beBlueAir) carried some 11.5 million passengers during its first decade, and currently operates a fleet of 11 Boeing 737s (-300s, -400s and -500s). Having originally started operations from Bucharest’s ‘low-cost’ airport at Baneasa, the carrier was forced to relocate to the city’s main Otopeni airport in the summer of 2012 when Baneasa was closed for scheduled services. In addition, the airline saw a change of ownership in the summer of 2013 with a local company Airline Management Solutions taking control.
This summer Blue Air operated 35 scheduled routes of which 22 were from Bucharest and a further 10 from its secondary base at Bacau. A number of new, seasonal services were added to holiday destinations in Greece and Turkey, as well as resuming flights between Bucharest and Cologne Bonn and Bucharest and Cuneo. According to anna.aero’s data archives, at one time or other during the last 10 years Blue Air has served 45 destinations from Bucharest with scheduled services. Routes no longer served by the airline from the Romanian capital include Florence, Istanbul, Lisbon, Lyon, Venice, Verona and Vienna. In addition the airline has swopped airports at a number of destinations such as Berlin (Schönefeld to Tegel), Brussels (Charleroi to Zaventem) and London (Stansted to Luton).
This summer Blue Air operated to 17 destinations from Bucharest with at least three weekly flights. Only Rome Fiumicino was served at least daily with London Luton and Paris Beauvais having six weekly flights. Wizz Air competes either directly (on the same airport pair) or indirectly (to another airport serving the same city) on 13 of these 17 routes, while flag-carrier TAROM offers an alternative option on nine of them. Only on the two German routes to Cologne Bonn and Stuttgart does Blue Air not face any competition.
Location leads to longer average sector lengths
Romania’s geographic position in Europe and the airline’s route network means that it relies on point-to-point traffic with virtually no opportunities for (self-)connecting traffic. Another issue relating to the airline’s location is that the average sector length this summer was 1,682 kilometres, which is relatively long for LCCs. For comparison Vueling’s average sector length in August was 1,008 kilometres, easyJet’s was 1,170 kilometres while Ryanair’s was 1,278 kilometres. Even local Central European rival Wizz Air had an average sector length of 1,395 kilometres. Such a long sector length for Blue Air makes it almost impossible to schedule three return flights per day per aircraft. As a result the airline’s aircraft utilisation will not be particularly high.
Second base at Bacau
According to the airline it will operate non-stop flights from Bacau to nine destinations next summer. Existing routes to Bologna, Brussels, Dublin, London (Luton), Milan (Bergamo), Paris (Beauvais), Rome (Fiumicino) and Turin (Cuneo) will be continued and joined by a new service to Liverpool starting in March. All of these routes will be served at least twice-weekly, with Rome getting daily flights.
Other routes currently planned for next summer are Sibiu-Stuttgart (thrice-weekly) and Turin-Catania (six times weekly). The Sibiu-Stuttgart route serves workers in the automotive industry as Sibiu is home to a number of component manufacturers, while Stuttgart is home to both Mercedes and Porsche. The reasons for recently launching six times weekly flights between Turin and Catania are less clear, as the route is already served daily by Ryanair. However, it may be related to the fact that this winter Blue Air is operating two routes from Turin on behalf of Meridiana; four times weekly flights to Naples, and twice-weekly flights to Berlin.
If you don’t try you’ll never know …
According to anna.aero’s archives Blue Air has not been shy in exploring the viability of a wide range of other routes outside of its main Bucharest base. These include:
- International flights from Arad between 2006 and 2010, and Cluj-Napoca.
- Flights from Milan/Bergamo to Naples in W09/10.
- Flights from Larnaca to Milan/Bergamo, Vienna and Warsaw between March 2010 and September 2010.
- Flights from London Stansted to Thessaloniki in W09/10.
- Flights from Satu Mare to Cuneo and Venice in the summer of 2012.
- Flights from Suceava to Cluj-Napoca, Rome, Venice and Vienna between 2009 and 2010.