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).