New airline routes launched (20 December – 09 January)

Turkish Airlines Istanbul to Xi’an

Dignitaries and the Turkish Airlines crew welcome the inaugural Istanbul to Xi’an flight. Istanbul Airport has an opportunity to move up the order with its ideal geography between East and West, without the capacity limitations faced by Ataturk (*2019 traffic aggregate old + new IST).

  • Turkish Airlines closed off 2019 with the launch of flights between Istanbul and Xi’an on December 30. This is the first new mainland Chinese route for Turkish Airlines in over eight years. Istanbul is only the 11th largest connecting market for Europe – China traffic, with Beijing Capital top, followed by Moscow Sheremetyevo. Currently, the UK is the biggest single market in Europe from China, with 1.1 million passengers in the year to November 2019. However, only half of these were non-stop, with 567,000 indirect passengers. Turkish Airlines will tap into this market, with Istanbul Airport already established as a very powerful East-West hub.

Biman Bangladesh Airlines Dhaka to Manchester

 Manchester Airport CEO Andrew Cowan led dignitaries at the launch of Biman Bangladesh’s three-weekly service to Manchester. The airport marked the occasion with this remarkable Bangladesh-themed cake; a worthy winner of 2020’s first Cake of the Week.

  • Biman Bangladesh Airlines on 04 January returned to Manchester Airport with services from Dhaka, via Sylhet. The route was last served in summer 2012, and operates on Tuesdays, Saturdays, and Sundays with B787-8s. Over 70,000 people of Bangladeshi origin live in Northern England, according to the airport. While London has a non-stop Dhaka service, over two-thirds of all traffic between the UK and Bangladesh is indirect. In the year to November 2019, this amounted to 216,000 out of 314,000 passengers.

The rest of this week’s new routes (A – Z by airline)

Posing with Austrian Airlines’ crew which operated the inaugural flight from Vienna are Birmingham Airport’s Aviation Director Tom Screen and Aviation Development Manager Jonathan Ford. Daily flights will be introduced on the route from 29 March.

Austrian Airlines on 01 January launched four times weekly services between Birmingham Airport and Vienna International. Birmingham will be served from the Austrian capital on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays, with increasing to daily from S20. In the year to November 2019, 12,600 of the 49,620 passengers on the route travelled indirectly, which explains the frequency increase to meet this underserved demand. The airline replaces fellow Lufthansa Group carrier Eurowings on the route, as part of a group-wide rationalisation which sees Eurowings reduce capacity from Vienna and transfer certain routes to Austrian. Lauda also operates on the route with a three times weekly Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday service. 

Speaking at the launch, Andreas Otto, CCO Austrian Airlines said: “We are very pleased about the launch of our Birmingham-Vienna route. Passengers will benefit from a closer connection to our hub and an increased number of flights”.

  • JetSMART on 27 December commenced four-weekly services between Salvador Bahia and Santiago de Chile. The carrier sees competition on the route from Chilean LCC, SKY Airlines, which launched a thrice-weekly service only the previous day. In 2019, 49,000 flew indirectly from Salvador Bahia and Santiago. JetSMART’s Argentinian subsidiary made headlines recently with the acquisition of Norwegian Air Argentina

Thai Air Asia X’s inaugural Bangkok Don Mueang flight, operated by a brand new A330-900neo, arrives in Tbilisi, with dignitaries marking the launch. Equally of interest (to you secret planespotters out there) is the rare Antonov 148 parked up in the back of shot.

  • Thai Air Asia X launched six round-trip charter flights to on Christmas Day with the launch of Tbilisi, Georgia, from Bangkok Don Mueang. The route is operated by 377-seat A330-300s and A330-900neos. Air Asia Group’s last European services ceased in 2012, when Air Asia X (Malaysia) withdrew from Kuala Lumpur to London Gatwick and Paris Orly. In the year to November 2019, 16,800 passengers travelled indirectly between Thailand and Georgia, with connections via Doha accounting for 59% of this. 

Celebrating Ural Airlines’ arrival at London Stansted with the crew was Stansted’s Neringa Ohrstrom, Head of Brand & Marketing (left), and Maddi Broadbent, Aviation Account Manager (right).

  • Ural Airlines on 20 December inaugurated services to London Stansted from Moscow Domodedovo. The route is operated four-weekly by 160-seat A320s. In 2019, London – Moscow had 480,000 total passengers on a local basis. Currently, the UK – Russia bilateral only permits two airlines from each country to operate on the route, with current service as follows. 
Airline Routing Weekly flights Equipment
Aeroflot London Heathrow – Moscow Sheremetyevo 32 A321/A333/B738
British Airways London Heathrow – Moscow Domodedovo 18 A321
Ural Airlines London Stansted – Moscow Domodedovo 4 A320
Wizz Air UK London Luton – Moscow Vnukovo 7 A321
Source: OAG Schedules Analyser


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