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Russian regional airline RusLine is pursuing significant expansion in summer 2013, including the launch of five routes from Chelyabinsk Airport.
The fast-growing regional operator is Russia’s 16th largest domestic carrier with about 9,500 weekly domestic seats and about a 1% share of the Russian domestic market, according to CAPA and Innovata data. It is based at Moscow Domodedovo Airport, where it is currently the 10th largest domestic carrier.
But RusLine’s capacity will nearly double over the next couple of months as it launches several routes, including from Chelyabinsk and a new base at Voronezh, and adds capacity in several existing markets. The carrier plans to offer almost 20,000 weekly domestic seats in the Russian domestic market in Jul-2013, giving it almost a 2% share.
Transaero, Russia’s fourth largest carrier, is pursuing further growth across its domestic and international networks. Transaero will be operating a 20% larger schedule in summer 2013 compared to summer 2012 with considerable expansion in Eastern Europe and Central Asia.
The carrier’s widebody fleet, which is already the largest in Russia, is set to increase over the next several years, leading to further ambitious expansion across its medium and long-haul network. The carrier already operates a widebody fleet of about 50 aircraft consisting of 747-300/400s, 767-200/300s and 777-200/300s, and plans to take three new types over the next few years – A380s, 747-8Is and 787s.
Armavia suspended operations on 01-Apr-2013 after filing for bankruptcy amid mounting debts. The Armenian national carrier was, until then, the largest carrier operating from Armenia with services across Eastern and Central Europe and into the Middle East.
The loss of Armavia has resulted in capacity to/from the country reducing by about 23%, according to CAPA and Innovata data. But already three carriers from Western Europe have agreed to increase capacity to Yerevan in the wake of Armavia’s suspension of operations. A number of Eastern carriers also plan to launch services to the country as part of their summer 2013 programmes.
Armavia’s financial issues were apparent in late 2012 with Yerevan Zvartnots International Airport temporarily suspending the servicing of the airline’s aircraft twice within one week in late Oct-2012 due to unpaid debts of USD3.3 million. This was above the agreed debt level of USD1 million.
Yakutia is undergoing network and fleet expansion as it continues to grow and develop into a major Russian regional carrier. The airline, which launched operations 10 years ago, is also making an effort to reach international standards, having recently secured IATA Operational Safety Audit (IOSA) certification.
Yakutia is currently Russia’s 11th largest airline based on capacity with just over 28,000 seats per week. The airline is close to attaining 10th position from Yamal Airlines, which offers just over 29,000 seats per week.
The news that Wizz Air intends to leave Scotland’s Glasgow Prestwick Airport (PIK) in favour of the city’s International Airport serves to emphasise the fact that while primary airports generally held quite steady in 2012 – and in some cases managed to grow their passenger traffic base – in Europe at least the hybridisation of airlines is but one factor leading airlines towards a reappraisal of their needs where airports are concerned. Is there now a future for secondary and tertiary level airports; a model that exploded on to the scene as recently as the first half of the 2000s to service the rapid escalation of budget airlines?
A new airline entered Bangladesh’s skies in 2013 with the launch of NovoAir on 09-Jan-2013.
NovoAir will become the fourth scheduled operator in the domestic Bangladeshi market, joining Biman Bangladesh Airlines, Regent Airways and United Airways Bangladesh, with its launch occurring less than 12 months after the suspension of GMG Airlines’ operations on 30-Mar-2012.
Launching the service, NovoAir MD Mofizur Rahman noted the potential in the domestic Bangladesh market, while adding that international service may be launched after an initial domestic focus in the first year of operation.
Maastricht Airlines is preparing to launch services in Mar-2013, becoming only the second operator at Maastricht Airport in the Netherlands after Ryanair. The new full-service regional carrier will be launching a challenge to Ryanair as it plans to attract both business and leisure passengers looking to visit key European centres.
The airline is targeting business travellers and those tourists who previously flew with Ryanair or travelled to other airports such as Amsterdam or secondary airports in neighbouring Belgium and Germany. Maastricht Airlines' sales and marketing manager Marjolein Peerboom says business travel is the airline’s main focus but the carrier will also try to attract “tourists looking to travel to other destinations from the Maastricht region”.
Kuban Airlines ceased operations on 11-Dec-2012, filing for bankruptcy with the Krasnodar Region Arbitration Court. It had been in financial difficulties for some time. Kuban Airlines accounted for just under 16,000 seats per week to Russia’s aviation market, ranking it the 20th largest carrier in the country based on weekly seats offered, according to Innovata data.
The bankruptcy filing also apparently spells the end for the first of Russia's mostly unhappy LCCs. Established in 2006, the former self-standing LCC, SkyExpress, had been folded into Kuban in Oct-2011 and operated under its own brand as a low cost division under Kuban's AOC, while retaining the SkyExpress identity.
Some Russian carriers have already signalled their intention to step in to replace services on some routes and UTair stands to benefit most from the collapse, particularly on domestic services from Moscow Vnukovo Airport.
Curacao-based airline group InselAir is finally ready to launch a new airline subsidiary in Aruba after one year of regulatory delays. InselAir also aims to launch a third airline on the island of Saint Maarten in 2013, in line with its ambition to establish a pan-Caribbean airline group.
InselAir Aruba plans to commence services within the next few weeks and launch several routes over the next few months including to Havana, Manaus, Miami, Quito, San Juan and several points in Venezuela. The carrier is now targeting to carry a significant number of passengers between Miami and Venezuela, an important market for InselAir in Curacao and other Caribbean carriers as there is insufficient non-stop capacity in Miami-Venezuela market to meet demand. InselAir Aruba will also take over some of the frequencies between Aruba and Curacao that are now operated by its sister carrier.
Gulf airlines will follow up their aggressive 2012 expansion into the US with a number of major new routes in 2013. Qatar Airways and Etihad Airways have both confirmed that they plan to add new US destinations in 2013 and Emirates will most probably join them, as it continues to fill out an already substantial US route network.
In a fast changing alliance scene, partnerships will be a focal point, as Emirates courts American Airlines, which currently partners with Etihad, but whose oneworld alliance is welcoming Qatar Airways. Etihad has a sizeable presence on American's network, but American has few codes on Etihad, making the relationship more one-sided than the two-way Etihad prefers. With Etihad looking for a larger strategic footprint, it may be looking for a new US partner if American cannot deliver.
According to Arab Air Carriers Organisation (AACO) data, just 2.4% of the organisation's airlines' available seats are operated to/from the Americas. That compares with 31.3% of seats into Europe, 18% into Asia and 8.8% into Australasia. However, for the 'Big Three' of Gulf aviation, the lucrative markets in the Americas are taking on increasing importance.
And one thing is certain. The momentum of the Gulf airlines is sufficient now that this US invasion will further shift the global alliance balance.
With the Bahrain Government clearing the way for a major bail out for Gulf Air earlier this year, the carrier has made another major strategic move, with a long-overdue adjustment to its fleet orders. After extensive discussions with both Airbus and Boeing, Gulf Air is shelving the majority of its orders for widebody aircraft, in favour of larger numbers of current and future generation narrowbodies.
The widebody orders were a legacy of Gulf Air’s ambition to re-establish itself as a major player in the Middle East long-haul market. As part of this goal, it ordered 20 A330s and 24 Boeing 787s in a series of agreements made over 2008 and 2009. The objective was to develop the carrier into an entity that could compete in a market that was rapidly being dominated by the expansion of the ‘Big Three’ in the Gulf: Etihad Airways, Qatar Airways and Emirates.
However, things have not turned out as envisioned. After a succession of turn around programmes and three different CEOs in less than five years, a combination of continued heavy losses, the high cost of oil and the broader Middle East socio-political environment has forced a major re-think at the airline. In the face of the new commercial and competitive reality in Gulf aviation, as well as the carrier’s dire financial status, Gulf Air has been forced to turn away from its bid to take a place among the major long-haul carriers of the region.
Kosovo’s aviation market is steadily expanding with increasing traffic at the country’s only commercial airport, particularly from western Europe. Further increases may come with the recent signing of an air services agreement with the UAE which would see an entirely new region connected to the country. Kosovo’s aviation industry has been steadily growing over the past five years with a number of western European carriers adding capacity to the small south-eastern European nation.
Kosovo is a relatively young nation, officially declaring independence from Serbia in 2008 though its market and traffic has been separate from Serbia since the 1999 North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) war. Kosovo has a population of approximately 1.74 million, according to a recent census conducted by the Kosovo Statistics Agency, with approximately 200,000 in its capital, Pristina. The country’s only international airport is at Pristina.