Europe third-tier airlines enter 2014 in a state of flux and uncertainty. These smaller carriers link lesser communities or provide feeder links from regional outposts to major hub cities. This sector within European aviation is too often overlooked by visitors to Europe from overseas—and that’s a pity as smaller airports are often easy to access and free of the hassles that afflict big city airports.
Direct flights from regional airports
If you want to travel from Cambridge to Milan for example, and feel that the train is not for you, then there is no need to trek to London for your flight to Italy. You can fly directly from Cambridge to Milan (and other continental destinations) with Darwin Airline.
But carriers come and carriers go. Two different airlines have launched an Oxford to Edinburgh route in recent years. Neither lasted long. The last year has seen several such carriers slip into aviation history. Among those which have disappeared are German carriers OLT Express and Augsburg Airways, a Ukrainian private-sector venture called Aerosvit, Italian airline Air Vallée and the Slovak carrier Danube Wings.
Questions over Air Onix and SkyWork
Across Europe’s aviation sector, there are worries that a number of other carriers may be heading towards insolvency. Ukrainian carrier Air Onix announced last Friday that it needs to take a break from flying. The airline suggests that operations will resume in spring 2014. Only time will tell!
There are also big questions this week over the future of the Swiss regional airline SkyWork. The carrier’s current operating license runs until January 31, 2014, and the airline’s management are looking to German investors to bail out the ailing carrier. Meanwhile, travelers willing to take a chance can secure big discounts on SkyWork flights thru October 2014. The carrier operates flights to cities across Europe from its hub in the Swiss capital Berne.
Flybe reconfigures its network
We are seeing a high level of route volatility just now. Regional carrier Flybe has just announced nine routes that will be scrapped in January. The cuts include routes from Paris, Cardiff, Southampton and Glasgow. In March, Flybe is set to drop six key routes from London Gatwick.
All change at CityJet
Just before Christmas, the news broke that CityJet, now on point of being sold to Intro Aviation, will axe several routes from London City Airport in late March 2014—among them services to Paderborn, Luxembourg and Dundee. This will leave Dundee airport without any scheduled services. This won’t be the first time that a European airport has closed for lack of flights. Kassel Airport only opened last spring, but closed its doors in the fall. The airport authorities say they have drummed up some business for summer 2014, so there is hope yet for Kassel. Whether Dundee can similarly get a second chance is a matter for speculation.
But it’s not all bad news from CityJet as the carrier will in January pick up new routes from Cardiff to Glasgow (helping fill the gap by Flybe’s cuts at Cardiff).
Regional routes to the east
Other useful new routes from regional carriers include Germania’s new links to Moscow from Leipzig and Karlsruhe. Both services launched in December. Germania has been very much on the up of late. Its new route from London Gatwick to Erfurt/Weimar airport in the German state of Thuringia started just four weeks ago. New carrier Air Serbia (which is in effect an relaunch of the former Yogoslav flag carrier airline known at JAT) is developing its network with recent new routes from its Belgrade hub to Prague and Banja Luka. Italian airline Meridiana launched new routes in December from both Verona and Naples to Kiev.