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Spring 2011 Aviation Update: New airline, routes and charges

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Wizz Air
Wizz Air will launch London to Skopje, Macedonia flights in June. Photo: OsdPhoto

Europe’s spring airline schedules came into effect last week, so in this travel brief we take a look at what’s new in the skies over Europe for the 2011 peak season.

A new airline takes off from Vienna

Our prize for the zaniest airline name in the new schedules goes to People’s Viennaline, a start-up aviation venture which sounds as if it might hail from a North Korean exclave near the Austrian capital. But People’s Viennaline is serious and claims it will transform air travel between Vienna and northeast Switzerland.

The fledgling carrier operates thrice-daily services on weekdays from Vienna to Altenrhein airport near St. Gallen, Switzerland (with one return flight at weekends). Services launched last week.

New links to Denmark

Big carriers are increasingly realizing that there is more to Denmark than Copenhagen, so the new schedules see a number of new routes to Denmark’s secondary airports in Jutland. KLM launches a twice-daily link between Amsterdam and Aalborg while Air France’s bags a new route from Paris to Billund (ideal for travelers who, having had their fill of EuroDisney, just cannot wait to get to Legoland).

Belle Air expands across Europe

Albania’s home-grown budget airline Belle Air continues to spread its wings over Europe with their schedules showing direct services to Tirana, Albania from 27 European cities this summer. The latest Belle Air route is a thrice-weekly service from Tirana to Brussels which launches today. Belle Air is also a growing force in the competitive Kosovo market where a number of big name carriers are establishing themselves at Pristina Airport.

Wizz Air to fly from London to Skopje, Macedonia

That Wizz is to launch a London to Skopje route on June 19 is good news indeed for Macedonia where tourism development has suffered from a lack of direct flights into the country’s two airports at Skopje and Ohrid. Wizz will offer four services a week from London to the Macedonian capital.

With that in prospect it was interesting to see several Balkan news agencies alive with rumors yesterday that Wizz is already thinking of creating a Skopje base in 2012. A new terminal at the Macedonian airport is due to open later this year.  If Wizz really does opt for a Skopje base, this really will transform air travel in the region. So poor is the present service from Skopje that many Macedonians opt to drive to Pristina in Kosova to fly to the wider world.

Ryanair adds routes; charges to book

True to form, Ryanair launched some two dozen new routes with the start of the spring schedules, the bulk of the new services in seasonal Mediterranean markets.

The no-frills carrier also added a €2 extra charge on all bookings made from the start of this month. Ryanair claims this is to cover costs in the event of passengers having to be compensated for canceled flights. This raises the extraordinary situation of some passengers now paying €1 for a flight and then twice that sum for the compensation levy.

easyJet’s random baggage-size checks

Devotees of low-cost airlines might also note a cunning little revenue-raising ploy introduced by easyJet yesterday. Effective April 5, all those folk who thought they could sneak onto the plane with a little extra bit of hand luggage now face tough penalties.

easyJet allows strictly only one piece of hand luggage and the size limits are on the slim side: 56 cm by 45 cm by 25 cm. The airline has now introduced random size checks for hand baggage at the boarding gate. Those found breaking the rules face a hefty extra charge of £40 (more than $65).

About the author

hiddeneurope

About the authors: Nicky and Susanne manage a Berlin-based editorial bureau that supplies text and images to media across Europe. Together they edit hidden europe magazine.

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4 Responses to “Spring 2011 Aviation Update: New airline, routes and charges”

Very excited about that Luton-Skopje route! Planning to fly it in late June.

Also quite interesting that Wizz Air is apparently considering turning Skopje into a base. Even a smallish base in Skopje would be fantastic for Macedonians living abroad as well as for tourism, which I regard as vastly untapped.

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Hi Alex
Very good of you to comment thus, for in truth we always defer to your much greater appreciation of aviation matters. As it happens we are just back from Macedonia, and the current vibes re Skopje flight connections are interesting. Belle Air is a strong contender, for they have a strong market position in Tirana and have moved into Pristina. Skopje would a logical next step, and if Wizz stake a strong hold in Skopje, then Belle Air would surely challenge that. Meanwhile, there are very strong rumours of Wizz also launching a Skopje to Venezia route this summer (to complement their London to Skopje service launcing in June).

Will this all help Macedonia? We are not sure. A few established incoming agencies have a stranglehold on the tourism market, and they would much prefer a Dutch or Israeli charter or two bringing in a docile herd rather than independent travellers flocking in with with Wizz and Belle Air. The national carrier MAT is all but dormant, and the Republic of Macedonia (sorry, FYROM for Greek readers) has a totally underused airport at Ohrid which just cries out for a few scheduled flights.

It is definitely a country to watch, just as you suggest Alex.
Nicky and Susanne
editors / hidden europe magazine
Berlin, Germany

Tim Forster says:

Interesting, Alex, to read your comment that Macedonian tourism is – as you put it – ‘vastly untapped’. Can someone tell me more? Why would I choose Macedonia over nearby Greece or Albania, both of which are much easier to get to?

Tim, London

Hi Tim,

Thanks for your comment. Nicky and Susanne have just posted an entire post in response to you question. Read it here:
http://www.eurocheapo.com/blog/why-travel-to-macedonia-the-macedonian-question.html

Thanks again,
Tom

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