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Eastern Europe DESTINATIONS W


ith a surge in low-cost carrier (LCC) capacity following eastern Europe’s embracing of open


skies, the region’s increasingly competitive aviation market has become one of the fastest growing in the world. So concludes management consultancy Oliver Wyman’s Global Fleet & Maintenance, Repair, and Overhaul (MRO) Market Forecast Summary 2018-2028, which notes how eastern Europe’s growth outstripped that of the more mature western European market over the past 10 years in terms of fleet capacity and availability seat miles (ASMs). Eastern Europe’s capacity more than doubled from 2008 to 2018, the report shows, having grown at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 6.6% compared to 3% for western Europe. Meanwhile, its share of Europe’s capacity grew from 9.4% to 13.6%. Further reasons for optimism include


eastern Europeans’ rising purchasing power and the increasing affordability of flights, stemming largely from the downward pressure on airfares created by LCCs, whose meteoric rise followed the inclusion of eastern Europe within Europe’s single sky agreement. At this moment, notes Sven Kukemelk, co-founder of aviation consultancy NA Advisory and deputy COO at Adria Airways, “low-cost carriers moved from niche player status to a trend-setter position”. Open skies forced the region’s legacy carriers to restructure, for which they were less prepared than their west European counterparts, notes Kukemelk in his study Do regional airlines in eastern Europe have the right to survive in the European single sky agreement?. Moreover, EU rules barring governments from financially propping up legacy carriers lead to the scrutiny of carriers’ finances, contributing to the demise of recently re-nationalised Hungarian carrier Malév. In contrast, public funding continued to be used to support regional airports that then offered LCCs financial inducements to develop routes, resulting in “low (effectively subsidised) prices”. As aviation consultant Barry Humphreys of BKH Aviation says: “While air services


to/from eastern Europe have expanded considerably over recent years – helped by the growth of low-cost carriers, including Hungary-based Wizz Air – the legacy airlines in that part of Europe have not prospered nearly as much.”


Moldova and Romania Air Moldova was a more recent flag carrier casualty. When the Moldovan government signed the Common Aviation Area Agreement with the EU in 2012, it lay the foundations for the recent surge in low-cost capacity at Air Moldova’s Chis


‚ina ‚ina ˘u International Airport hub, where


key players now include Blue Air; Wizz Air, which based a second aircraft at Chis


‚ina ˘u in December; and Chis ˘u-based


Fly One, launched in 2016. Eventually, the Moldovan government decided to privatise the loss-making carrier, which was acquired last October by a consortium led by Romanian LCC Blue Air. Data from OAG’s Schedules Analyser shows the number of available departure seats from Moldova more than doubled between 2013 and 2017, rising from 808,031 to 1,708,454. Legacy carriers adding Chis


‚ina ˘u routes last year included


Ukraine International Airlines (UIA), Aeroflot and Belarus flag carrier Belavia, which launched a five-weekly service to Minsk in October. Belavia’s main focuses, however, include growing its network of flights to the Russian Federation and transit passengers at Minsk National Airport, with a new initiative this year offering free stopovers.


Another national carrier facing increased


cut-price competition on its doorstep is Romania’s Tarom. Wizz Air, which has bases at 10 airports in the country, claims to be Romania’s largest airline and will add a third Airbus A320 in Timis


‚oara from


September to support four new routes. Tarom has also been eclipsed by fast-


growing Blue Air. Established in 2004, Blue carried more than five million passengers last year; its estimated 2018 turnover of ¤460 million representing 10% growth year-on-year. Alongside its Romanian bases in Bucharest, Ias


‚i, Cluj, Baca ˘u and


Constant‚a (seasonal) it continues to grow bases outside the region such as Liverpool, England; Larnaca, Cyprus; and Turin, Italy. Other key players include Ireland’s


Ryanair, which serves four destinations in Romania. Italian LCC Ernest Airlines began flying to Ias


‚i International Airport from


Verona and Cuneo last June. Ukraine and Poland


Scheduled Russian carriers, chiefly Aeroflot, maintain a strong grip on the region, notwithstanding the ban on Russian air traffic from Ukraine’s airspace. New


routesonline.com ROUTES NEWS 2019 ISSUE 2 63 Barry Humphreys


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