April 2002 issue

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New routes for low-cost market

Travel Update

The UK's second-largest youth travel agency in the UK, Usit Campus, collapsed earlier this year amid mounting debts of UK£12 million (US$16.9 million). It had bought US youth travel agency, Council Travel, just a few weeks before September 11. Fellow UK agency, STA Travel, was reported to be buying up to 80 per cent of the Irish parent company, Usit World, at the time of going to press.

China Eastern, one of the largest carriers in China, is planning to acquire between 30 and 50 new aircraft, according to state-approved newspaper, China Daily. The carrier launched new services from capital Beijing to New Delhi in India via Shanghai last month.

Afghanistan's national airline, Ariana Afghan Airlines, made its first international flight for two-and-a-half years in January. The carrier's only Boeing 727 took off from capital, Kabul, to fly to New Delhi in India.

The cost of air fares in the USA were at their lowest value in 12 years in December last year, according to the American Air Transport Association (ATA). The association estimated that US carriers lost a combined total of US$9 billion last year.

US carrier Delta Air Lines increased non-stop services between New York and Paris last month, and from this month, it is launching a new service from Atlanta to Milan in Italy. "These new flights give our customers significant new access to the European hubs of two of our SkyTeam partners - Air France at Paris' Charles de Gaulle and Alitalia at Milan," said Subodh Karnik at Delta. "The hubs offer travellers hundreds of convenient connections to destinations across Europe, Asia and Africa."

French carrier Air Lib has launched a service from Paris to Algiers in Algeria, becoming the first French airline to operate flights to Algeria in seven years, since a hijacking by terrorists.

In February, Finnair launched a new Helsinki to Hong Kong service, to coincide with the Chinese New Year. The timetable is planned to coincide with Finnair's domestic, Scandinavian and European services, as well as those operated by the carrier's Oneworld alliance partners.

Dubai-based carrier, Emirates, has brought forward the launch of a direct service from Dubai to Perth in Western Australia. The service, starting in August, will represent the first non-stop link between the Gulf and Australia. Geoff Gallop, Premier of Western Australia, commented, "This new service [from Emirates] is part of our plan to bring more visitors to the state and to develop international infrastructure and new markets in the Indian Ocean region. This is a great win for the state in terms of tourism and product export." The service will operate four times weekly with a total flight time of just under 11 hours.

The start-up airline, Skynet, begins services this month from Shannon and Dublin in Ireland to Moscow, Russia via Warsaw in Poland. The service is a joint venture with Russian carrier Aeroflot, which is code-sharing with the new airline.

Following the announcement of new routes and new carriers last month (see Language Travel Magazine, March 2002, page 6), there have been further developments in the low-cost sector of Europe's aviation market. The new low-cost carrier from BMI British Midland, which has been named Bmibaby, has gained permission to run flights from East Midlands Airport in the UK to Prague in the Czech Republic. The carrier claimed to have sold more than 40,000 seats in its first two days of trading earlier this year.

Ryanair is launching 11 new routes this month, including services to Rome in Italy and Montpellier in France from London Stansted and a Rome service from Charleroi in Belgium. The carrier has confirmed an order for 100 new-generation Boeing 737-800s, and Tim Jeans, the company's Sales and Marketing Director, said Ryanair was looking at carrying 40 million passengers annually.

EasyJet launched five new services in February, from London to Barcelona, Malaga and Palma in Spain, Zurich in Switzerland and Edinburgh in Scotland. It is also planning to create a new European base.

Finally, Go has announced the destinations that it will be serving from its new East Midlands base. Flights will operate to Glasgow and Edinburgh in Scotland, Faro in Portugal, Prague in the Czech Republic, and Alicante and Malaga in Spain.

Transatlantic alliance called off

The US government approved an alliance between American Airlines and British Airways (BA) earlier this year, only to find that both airlines balked at the conditions imposed upon them. For the deal to go ahead, the carriers would have been required to give up 224 take-off and landing slots at London Heathrow. "The conditions laid down by the US government do not make sense for either company," said BA Chief Executive, Rod Eddington. He added, "Consumers will now be denied the substantial range of benefits that would have arisen from a closer alliance between our two great airlines."

The following week, the UK government withdrew from talks about a possible open skies agreement. It said it had to "reflect on how the interests of UK consumers and the wider UK economy [could] best be satisfied".

BMI British Midland warned that it might seek damages from the UK government because of the collapse of the open skies talks. Currently, only BA, American, Virgin Atlantic and United Airlines have permission to fly to the USA from London Heathrow. The European Commission is investigating the current agreement, which BMI believes is illegal. A ruling from the Commission is expected in July.

A new Swiss airline is born

Following the news that a rescue package had been brokered for Swissair after its collapse last year (see Language Travel Magazine, January 2002, page 10), a new, revamped Swiss airline has been born.

No longer known as Swissair, the new company, built on the remains of the bankrupt carrier, trades as Swiss, while its official name is Swiss Air Lines. The carrier's image reflects the cosmopolitan character of the Swiss people and typical Swiss characteristics of quality, it claims.

The Swiss government, banks and various private companies launched a multi-million dollar rescue package last year for a new national airline to be formed and services began in March.

Switzerland's revamped airline aims to be the fourth-largest in Europe, handling 15 million passengers annually. Swiss plans to serve 123 destinations in 60 countries, covering two-thirds of the former Swissair network.

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