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Eastern Europe DESTINATIONS


routes include LOT Polish Airline’s twice- weekly service between Kiev Zhulyany and Bydgoszcz, Poland, which commenced last August, and Air Serbia’s service from Belgrade to Kiev Boryspil International Airport, launching summer 2019 – the first direct service between the capitals in three years. LCCs are leading the charge though.


Ernest Airlines, having launched Ukraine last year, will add a third destination in March, adding thrice-weekly flights to Kharkiv from Milan and Rome. When Ryanair launched Ukraine as its 36th country this winter, with the aim of delivering 800,000 customers a year into Kiev’s Boryspil International Airport and Lviv Danylo Halytskyi International Airport, Ukraine’s minister of infrastructure Volodymyr Omelyan called it “the most important event for the national airspace over the past 20 years”. Poland is also proving a happy hunting


ground for LCCs like Wizz Air, Smartwings and Ryanair, which serves 13 Polish airports. Rzeszów-Jasionka Airport saw its best ever month back in July, handling more than 85,000 passengers. This followed a boost in summer charter traffic and the return of LOT’s old US service to Newark Liberty International Airport. Meanwhile, Czech operator Smartwings


Group has "hedged its bets" by operating both a scheduled airline, national carrier Czech Airlines (CSA), and an LCC, Smartwings, established in 1997. As aviation consultant John Strickland, director of JLS Consulting, has previously said, the most successful LCCs are those not affiliated to traditional carriers – and so is the case in eastern Europe where the major player is Hungary’s Wizz Air, which flew more than 18 million passengers in the past six months of 2018 and is pursuing a breakneck growth programme. Alongside intra-regional routes such as


Bratislava to Lviv, launched October, focus areas include Norway and Israel, with a new twice-weekly service this winter from Budapest to Ovda/Eilat. Other regional airlines growing Israel include LOT. LOT, which began a codeshare agreement with El Al Israel Airlines in December, now operates 21 weekly departures from Poland to Israel launched a twice-weekly Krakow-Tel Aviv service on February 25.


Increasing capacity


Fast-growing, cost-cutting LCCs may have transformed the landscape, but legacy carriers aren’t just rolling over. UIA reported a 15% rise in traffic for 2018, having carried more than eight million passengers with a load factor of 81% and launched new routes from Kiev such as Copenhagen, Cairo, Delhi and Toronto. This year, UIA expects to carry 10% 


Vaclav Rehor


Long-term plans at Václav Havel Airport include building a new parallel runway


Václav Havel Airport is open to all


Prague’s Václav Havel Airport handled 16.8 million passengers in 2018, a 9% rise on 2017, buoyed by new carriers American Airlines, Air


Arabia and Cyprus Airways and seven new destinations including Marrakech


and Philadelphia. This year, passenger traffi c is estimated to grow by 3-5%. Prague Airport CEO Vaclav Rehor says the airport


served more than 250,000 additional long-haul passengers last year. Current priorities include North America, with Rehor hoping to attract direct services to Chicago and Miami and persuade United Airlines to make its seasonal, daily service to New York/Newark, launching June 5, year round. Another priority is Asia, from plugging current network gaps such as Bangkok, Tokyo, Hanoi, Hong Kong, Delhi and Taipei to growing China. “We’ve already seen a remarkable development


of fl ights from China, having direct fl ights to four Chinese cities,” he explains. However, there’s still opportunity to add connections with other unserved destinations like Guangzhou or Shenzhen.” Short-haul focuses include growing Central Asia and the Russian Federation while adding direct links to European capitals it lacks services to, such as Vilnius, Tallinn and Sarajevo. Currently 13 LCCs operate at the airport, enjoying a 30% share of capacity. Rehor expects this fi gure will rise, but stresses both legacy and low-cost carriers have a place in the airport’s “well-balanced” growth plans.


Ryanair is adding two additional planes and 13


new routes at the airport this year. Volotea is adding Lyon, France and Cagliari, Sardinia; SunExpress will start fl ying to Antalya, Turkey; and Vueling launches Florence, Italy, in September. Long-term development plans include


constructing a new parallel runway and extending Terminal 2. Shorter- term goals include opening a new stand and gate for long-haul aircraft in Terminal 1.


routesonline.com ROUTES NEWS 2019 ISSUE 2 65


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