FlyBosnia plans to commence services between its base in Sarajevo and London in September, making the British capital its first European destination. The carrier's CEO, Tarik Bilalbegović, confirmed the new route to London as the airline opened its representative office in the city, on Regent Street. It is believed FlyBosnia will serve either Gatwick or Luton airports in London. The airline will link Sarajevo with the UK for the first time since British Airways discontinued services to Bosnia and Herzegovina's capital in 2009. FlyBosnia also plans to introduce flights to Paris and Rome in the near future, as well as add a further two Airbus A319 aircraft, for a total of four, by mid-2020.
Since launching commercial operations last month to several destinations in the Middle East, FlyBosnia has handled over 16.000 passengers. The airline recently inked an agreement with Bosnia's leading tour operator Elite Travel to shuttle passengers between Sarajevo and Tunisia. As a result, it has begun operating charter flights from Sarajevo to Monastir on the Tunisian coast. "We are pleased to work together with Bosnian tour operators, because it is yet another step forward in the development of FlyBosnia", one of the company's founders, Nudžejma Skenderović, said. The airline also reached a deal with local tour operator Globtour Event Sarajevo for the sale of its tickets.
FlyBosnia currently maintains scheduled flights from Sarajevo to Jeddah, Riyadh and Gassim in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait City, as well as Manama in Bahrain, which was inaugurated last week. Commenting on its operations, the carrier previously said, "We are a niche airline designed to provide affordable, direct flights to key destinations where we know there is demand. We have conducted extensive market research into creating an innovative and sustainable concept". It plans to operate a fleet of eight A319 jets by 2023. "These aircraft will enable FlyBosnia to progressively expand its destination network", the company said.
Flying with Alitalia only about once a year, I am always interested to see what, if anything, has changed as they continue to struggle financially. Despite their financial situation, I know that Alitalia's staff recently received new designer uniforms, which I am have a hard time grasping given that the airline is broke.
Regardless, a few weeks ago I flew with Alitalia in Business Class from Amsterdam to Rome.
Distance: 807 miles
Boarding, as per usual at Schiphol, is what I like to call ''managed chaos''. I say this because the gate agents do a relatively good job trying to separate premium passengers from economy passengers. However, due to the small gate areas at AMS and lack of boarding zones as in North America, passengers tend to congregate in large amounts around the 3 boarding lanes. This makes it quite difficult if you are a premium passenger to weave your way through the crowd to the Business Class/SkyTeam Elite (Plus) boarding lane.
Our flight was a bit delayed, and we were given no indication of why this was other than the ''late arrival of the aircraft from Rome,'' which really does not answer the question entirely.
I made my way through the crowd of people to the Business Class boarding lane. There was an agent at the front of the line checking to ensure that passengers were queuing in the correct lane which I really appreciated. I made my way down the jet bridge and onto the aircraft.
As I walked into the cabin, the purser did not say hello or greet a single passenger. She was busy doing something in the galley but nothing that appeared particularly pressing or necessary. I stowed my bag and took my aisle seat in the last row of Business Class. The flight was nearly full with Business Class being 100% occupied today.
To give Alitalia credit, the seats are quite nice. They have decent pitch, are relatively wide, and pretty comfortable. The seats are all leather and had nice Italian touches to them. Also, the middle seat is blocked in Alitalia Business Class. Overall, the cabin seemed relatively fresh and in decent condition.
The A321 is a very long aircraft and takes quite a long time to board. As annoying as it is sometimes, I do often miss the North American boarding zones. This way, there is at least some sort of structure to boarding the aircraft in a timely fashion. Without the zones, I feel like the boarding process drags out much too long.
Once boarding was completed, we pushed back and began our 20-25 minute taxi to the Polderbaan, Amsterdam's notorious remote runway.
After takeoff, one of the crew members came to close the curtain dividing Business Class from Economy. It is a bit awkward if you are in the last row of Business Class as the curtain rests on the top part of your seat.
The crew on this flight, as often on all of my Alitalia flights, was incredibly grouchy and uninterested. I never saw the purser smile, let alone interact with anyone in a friendly manner.
On this flight, there were four rows of Business Class with a total of 16 passengers. The entire meal service took nearly 1.5 hours (on a 2 hour flight), and I was not served until roughly one hour into the flight. This is truly absurd, especially given the fact that there was no choice of meal nor beverage cart. The purser, much to her dismay, served each individual tray to each passenger in the cabin. Then, she would come back two more times to each person with the basket of bread and their requested drink. No menus were distributed nor was an explanation of the meals/beverages provided. Whilst I am all for personal attention and not utilizing the trolleys to serve, the way this purser conducted the operation seemed incredibly inefficient.
There was a teenager with special needs sitting in one of the seats in the second row, and I was shocked with how the purser treated him. He obviously did not speak Italian nor understand why she was giving him a tray with food on it. She attempted to communicate with him but he still did not understand. Then, she let out a deep sigh and made a semi-eye roll. This was quite disappointing to see.
When she finally reached my row, she gave me a tray with no explanation of the meal. As I previously mentioned, she then came back twice, once with a bread basket and another time with my glass of red wine. I was also surprised that Alitalia did not offer a choice of wine, and only had to my knowledge, one of each types of wine. This seems a bit unusual for Business Class on a national carrier of a country that prides itself on its wine.
The meal tasted fine but was unmemorable. What really struck me was the portion size; almost comically small, and left me even more hungry once I finished. No refills were offered, and the purser immediately started to come by each seat with a carafe of coffee (evidently just strong instant nescafe coffee).
By the time the service finally finished, we were already descending into Rome. After a smooth landing, we taxied to a remote parking location which I found really frustrating as nearly all of the jet bridges in the terminal were vacant. We were then crammed into two buses and driven 5 minutes to the main terminal area.
Overall, my expectations were pretty much met on this flight. I should add that my expectations were low.
Alitalia did a pretty lackluster job, and what struck me most was how uninterested, and relatively unfriendly, all Alitalia crews seem to be these days. I would much rather fly KLM on this route simply because the service is much friendlier and professional.
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Russian carrier Azur Air has received permits from the country's federal aviation authority Rosaviatsia on Wednesday to launch flights from Moscow to Zagreb. The company filed an application to operate a one weekly service from Vnukovo Airport to the Croatian capital. The airline may choose not to exercise its rights. Azur Air specialises in leisure flights and operates a fleet of thirty Boeing aircraft, ranging from the B737-800 to the B777-300ER. Aeroflot maintains a daily service between Moscow and Zagreb.
Italy's state railway Ferrovie dello Stato has chosen the Atlantia transport group and US airline Delta as partners to reboot the ailing Alitalia. Under its three-year development plan starting from 2020, the carrier intends to launch flights from Rome to Zagreb, among others, as well as strengthen its seasonal operations to Split and Dubrovnik, local media report. Alitalia previously outlined plans to commence flights to the Croatian capital back in 2014, however, the route never materialised. The Italian carrier maintained up to two daily flights to Zagreb prior to its bankruptcy in 2008. The new Alitalia, which is expected to focus on boosting long haul flights while cutting unprofitable routes, also plans on introducing services from Rome to Vienna and Bucharest.
There are currently no nonstop flights between Zagreb and Rome with Croatia Airlines serving the route via both Dubrovnik and Split. The carrier strengthened its presence in Italy in 2011 with the introduction of seasonal services between Dubrovnik and Venice and six years later with the launch of seasonal flights from Zagreb to Milan. Alitalia currently codeshares on Air Serbia's service between Belgrade and Zagreb. In 2018, 1.148.078 Italians visited Croatia, representing an increase of 3.4% on the year before. According to data released last week by the Zagreb Tourist Board, Italy was the fifth biggest source of tourists to the Croatian capital, with the third largest number of overnight stays.
Alitalia declared bankruptcy two years ago and has long struggled against competition from low cost carriers. The airline has not turned a profit since 2002, has lost market share, and is propped up by state loans totalling 900 million euros. The money is supposed to be paid back with interest but this may never happen due to continuing government efforts to support the company. The European Commission has an ongoing state aid investigation into the matter. Ferrovie dello Stato has until September 15 to formally present its business plan for the struggling carrier, as well as a binding offer.
British Airways will increase its operations to Zagreb and Dubrovnik this coming winter season which begins on October 27. The carrier will add an extra two weekly flights between London Heathrow and the Croatian capital for a total of nine per week for the majority of the winter. However, during certain periods, frequencies will vary between seven and nine weekly. This includes November, January and February. In Dubrovnik, the carrier will operate up to four weekly flights from London Gatwick during certain periods of the season, up by two on last year, while during others there will be three weekly flights. British Airways continues to compete directly against Croatia Airlines on the London Heathrow - Zagreb service.
Air France introduced new seasonal flights between Paris and Split on Tuesday, making the coastal city its third destination in Croatia following Zagreb and Dubrovnik. Flights will run three times per week until September 1 with a mix of Airbus A319 and A320 aircraft. It follows the introduction of seasonal services to Dubrovnik last year, which are being maintained up to five times per week in 2019. Delta Air Lines is codesharing on Air France's new Paris - Split service. The French carrier competes directly against Croatia Airlines and easyJet on the route.
LOT Polish Airlines has filed for slots to launch daily flights between Budapest and Belgrade starting September 1. The service, which is yet to be officially confirmed by the airline and put on sale, is expected to depart the Hungarian capital late in the evening, arriving in Belgrade at 23.35. The inbound service is expected to operate early in the morning the following day at 05.10, giving passengers the opportunity to connect onto the carrier's short haul network from Budapest, primarily London City and Brussels, with the latter to launch on September 2. Furthermore, the carrier will introduce services to Bucharest, as well as station an Embraer E195 jet in the Hungarian capital.
The Warsaw-based airline is creating its first airport hub outside of Poland in response to recent growth and route expansion opportunities. The aim is to position LOT as the new transfer airline of Eastern Europe. Apart from London, the carrier already operates to several destinations from Budapest, including New York, Chicago, Krakow and Warsaw. LOT Polish Airlines' CEO, Rafal Milczarski, previously said, "With new flights we will start developing transfer traffic via Budapest Airport. It is a smart way to further establish the airline as the preferred choice for travelling in the region". The Polish carrier currently maintains eleven weekly flights between Warsaw and Belgrade, which will increase to twelve weekly in late September.
The national carrier of Belarus, Belavia, currently runs two weekly services from Budapest to Belgrade, which will be discontinued on October 24. The airline will instead operate three weekly nonstop flights from Minsk. Air Serbia launched daily operations to the Hungarian capital in March 2014 but suspended the service in October the following year due to poor demand. It will introduce subsidised two weekly flights between Niš and Budapest from August 1. In 2017, Wizz Air, with the support of the Hungarian government, launched services from Budapest to Pristina, Skopje, Podgorica, Sarajevo and Tirana, which have so far proven successful.
Russia’s national carrier Aeroflot has begun codesharing on its Polish counterpart’s flights between Warsaw and Podgorica. The airline has added its flight numbers and designator code onto LOT’s daily service between the Polish and Montenegrin capitals. Aeroflot already codeshares to Podgorica on flights operated by Air Serbia from Belgrade and Alitalia from Rome.
Montenegro Airlines has removed plastic cups on board its aircraft, replacing them with recyclable paper. “The complimentary service on board our aircraft has now become even more pleasing. By using paper cups instead of plastic, we are enabling waste recycling, which is of great importance to both the environment and society”, the carrier said in statement. Plastic cups generate about 28% more greenhouse gasses than paper cups and take up to one million years to decompose in a landfill. Furthermore, the production of plastic cups is toxic, and the cups themselves can become a hazard by leaching toxins into the soil. Last month, Croatia Airlines implemented the same measure.
Belgrade is expected to handle over six million passengers this year as operator VINCI marks the formal start of Nikola Tesla Airport’s multi million euro expansions. During the first five months of the year, it welcomed 2.010.515 travellers through its doors, increasing to 2.611.000 by the end of June. The figure represents growth of 5.9%. Commenting on the results, the French operator said, “In Serbia, work done by VINCI Airports with airlines since its arrival at the end of 2018 led to the return of Air France, which reopened its Paris - Belgrade service after a six-year absence. In addition, Wizz Air opened a new link between the Serbian capital and Lyon-Saint Exupery Airport, which is also operated by VINCI Airports. These two route openings helped boost the number of international visitors to Serbia.”.
This year, capacity at Belgrade Airport is up by an average of 32.3% per carrier compared with 2018. Aeroflot and easyJet have increased the number of departing seats by 33.2% and 70.9% respectively. On the other hand, despite introducing nine new routes from its main base, Air Serbia has increased its capacity this year by just 4%, while overall five-year average annual capacity growth is relatively flat at 0.9%. Aeroflot, easyJet, Lufthansa, Swiss, Qatar Airways and Wizz Air have all seen their average growth figures at the airport exceed 5% over the past five years. Belgrade’s current busiest route is to Zurich with just under 250.000 overall seats and 45 weekly flights, while Tivat sees the most weekly frequencies at 53.
Plaque marking the start of Belgrade Airport's expansion and modernisation
On Monday, French President, Emmanuel Macron, his Serbian counterpart, Aleksandar Vučić, as well as the Chairman and CEO of the VINCI Group, Xavier Huillard, and the CEO of VINCI Concessions and President of VINCI Airports, Nicolas Notebaert, met in Belgrade where they formally marked the start of the airport’s expansion and modernisation. A new Joint Venture company has been formed between Vinci Construction Grands Projects and Greece’s GEK Terna Group, which will run the project. It includes the expansion of the airport's facilities by 42.000 square metres, while the existing terminals will be refurbished. Furthermore, a new 3.500 metre runway will be built, while the existing 3.400 metre runway will be upgraded. A total of nine new taxiways will be developed, the existing apron will be expanded, and a new 55.000 square metre apron will be built. The deicing platform will be expanded by another 6.200 square metres. Landisde, a new car park, with a capacity for 2.400 vehicles, will be built and new curbside/sidewalk infrastructure and facilities for departures/arrivals handling will be developed. Other projects include road work around the airport, encompassing some 3.500 metres, a new rainwater drainage system, marking and static signage, lighting and CCTV camera systems. Furthermore, construction of auxiliary building facilities and other infrastructure works such as waste water and solid waste treatment plants, a heating plant, a meteorological station and a solar panel plant, amongst others, will be built. The entire project must be completed within five years. In a statement Serbia's Prime Minister, Ana Brnabić, said, "The strategic partnership of the government of Serbia with VINCI, as well as the partnerships with Etihad and the MTU Company are crucial for the future development of aviation in Serbia".