New airline routes launched (27 November – 05 December)
Flyadeal’s new Riyadh to Yanbu route
- Flyadeal launched three new routes in a bumper week for the airline. These included Riyadh to Taif and Yanbu, alongside a Dammam to Yanbu route. The routes are served daily, with a 186-seat A320. The LCC has a total of 11 Saudi Arabian cities in its 2019 network, an increase of three from 2018.
Air Seychelles’ new Mahé to Tel Aviv service
On 27 October, Air Seychelles launched weekly services to Tel Aviv, alongside an interline agreement with El Al. Charles Johnson, Chief Commercial Officer at Air Seychelles, explained that “El Al already operated seasonal charter flights twice-annually to Mahé. We approached them because we felt we it could sustain a scheduled weekly year-round service with our A320neo.” El Al’s extensive European network is expected to provide a strong feed to the route.
Air Seychelles has removed widebodies
This comes as the airline reevaluated its long-haul strategy, removing the last widebodies from its fleet in 2018. Johnson revealed that Air Seychelles struggled to compete with the strong connecting traffic from some of the 15 carriers serving Mahé.
A short-haul niche achieved
On the short-haul side, the carrier has carved out a successful niche, with strong O&D and connecting demand from Johannesburg in particular. Johnson noted that “we have benefited from the growing demand for ‘Safari & Sand’ holidays. Customers spend time in South Africa on Safari, before heading for some relaxation on the Seychelles beaches”. The carrier uses this to its advantage on its regional Twin Otter network. This consists of scheduled flights to Praslin Island, seeing traffic split 50-50 between connecting tourism and local demand. These operate alongside charters and wet-leases in summer.
With a second A320neo coming, Air Seychelles has an opportunity to right-size its network with one of the most efficient narrowbodies. This will also partly mitigate the range-payload challenges caused by the airline’s nearest diversion field being two hours away from Mahé. It is also continually improving feeds from interline agreements with 25 airlines.
Where is next?
What will be their next route? Johnson hinted that they are “studying other leisure-focused Indian Ocean island destinations”. Within six hours of Mahe, this could include the Maldives, reinstatement of Madagascar flights or perhaps a Sri Lankan route.
Until restructuring is complete in ~2023, Air Seychelles’ fleet is not likely to grow further. However, it is assessing the A321XLR, which is already being ordered by the likes of United to boost long-and-thin route capacity, or those more in need of frequency.
The rest of this week’s new routes (A – Z by airline)
- Aeromar on 3 December launched a non-stop weekday service to Saltillo from Mexico City. The route is operated by a 70-seat ATR72, with no other carriers competing, according to OAG Schedules Analyser. This comes as Aeromexico suspended operations on the route last month. It previously carried around 36,000 annual passengers on the route.
- British Airways on 01 December commenced direct flights to Dammam via Bahrain, arriving on 02 December. The route is served by a four-class 777-200, and operates via the existing BA124/5 service from London Heathrow. Dammam is BA’s third destination in Saudi Arabia after Jeddah and Riyadh. Moran Birger, Head of Sales for The Middle East and Asia Pacific, said: “Customers [were previously] offered a limo service between Bahrain and Dammam, but the direct flight will now enable seamless travel in eight hours from Heathrow. More than half of Saudi Arabia’s oil and gas is produced in this region, so this new link underlines the importance of the Eastern province of the Kingdom and the need for smooth onward connections to Europe and the United States.”
Lufthansa commenced services between Munich and Sao Paulo on 02 December. The route will operate three-weekly on Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays with a 293-seat A350-900. Wilken Bormann, CEO Lufthansa Hub Munich, said: “The route offering is further proof of the positive development of Munich as a premium hub. For the first time, Lufthansa is operating the Airbus A350-900 to South America, the most modern and environmentally-friendly long-haul aircraft in the world”.
Munich has seen 47 months of continuous growth, with the main driver being Lufthansa’s long-haul hub at the airport, and two additional A380s set to join in 2020. In a recent interview with anna aero at IATA Slots in Brisbane, Melanie Fürsich, Director Traffic Development Asia Pacific & Southern Europe, revealed Munich’s other top unserved routes. These include Colombo (40,000+ indirect annual pax), Hanoi (30,000) and Ho Chi Minh City (30,000). Taipei is also on the horizon, but cannot be served until traffic rights issues are solved.