May Travel Update: Budget airlines adding Baltic and Balkan routes
This month has seen quite a bit of low cost carrier activity, as airlines from Air Baltic to Ryanair and easyJet added routes eastward to the Baltics and down to the Balkans. Here’s a quick roundup of some of the most interesting additions.
Recent weeks have seen Air Baltic aggressively expanding its network, and developing from a simple Riga-based hub-and-spoke operation to offer more services from Vilnius and a bevy of new domestic routes within Finland.
Last week Air Baltic’s distinctive chartreuse-yellow livery showed up at Rovaniemi for the first time, as the airline launched new routes from the northern Finnish city to both Tampere (in central Finland) and Riga in Latvia.
Air Baltic’s growth at Vilnius fills a gap left by Lithuanian carrier FlyLAL which went bankrupt last year—some would argue that FlyLAL’s eventual demise was very much the result of a ferocious price war launched by Air Baltic. Now Vilnius is about to gain a new Air Baltic route: The four-times weekly service to Oslo starts next week.
Ryanair ventures east
The Baltic region stands center stage in this month’s European aviation news as Ryanair establishes a new Lithuanian base at the country’s second airport in Kaunas. Ryanair has been extremely cautious in its eastward expansion in Europe, and Kaunas is Ryanair’s first base east of the former Iron Curtain. The bargain basement Irish carrier launched ten new routes from Kaunas last week.
Low cost to Serbia
Elsewhere across the continent, Europe’s low cost carriers are beginning to eye up Serbia for possible rich pickings in the future. Spanair started a service from Barcelona to Belgrade last month, restoring an air link that has not been served for almost 20 years. Air Baltic launched its first Belgrade route last week – a thrice weekly link with Riga.
Wizz Air will debut in Serbia in June, with services from Belgrade to both Dortmund (Germany) and Luton (England). Norwegian already has a year-round Belgrade to Oslo service, which will be augmented this summer by a Belgrade to Stockholm service.
Kosovo and Croatia connections
EasyJet has not yet announced any plans to fly into Serbia, but it is edging closer. Services to Pristina, the capital of Kosovo, start next month. EasyJet’s first two Kosovo links will be from Basle and Geneva. In a move that may suggest a growing interest in the Balkans, Ryanair last week revived its Frankfurt to Osijek service. Osijek is in eastern Croatia, just a dozen miles from the border with Serbia.