Airline Startup Of The Week: Air Albania

Air Albania was founded in 2018 by Turkish Airlines and the government of the European country of Albania, to be the country’s national airline and flag carrier. Air Albania’s first flight took off in April 2019 for Istanbul, with an Airbus A319 aircraft leased from Turkish Airlines. Now, Air Albania plans three new routes for summer 2020. Let’s take a look.

Air Albania A319 Airbus
Air Albania is the flag carrier of Albania. Photo: Albinfo via Wikimedia

About Air Albania

Albania has not had a flag carrier for almost a decade before it co-founded Air Albania. Its previous flag carrier, Albanian Airlines, ceased operations in 2011.

For several years before Air Albania launched its first flight, there had been media reports that Turkey would be assisting in the creation of a new national airline in Albania. Turkish President Erdogan himself expressed support for the project.

Air Albania was founded in 2018, and it operated its first flight a year later, to Istanbul. It did so using an Airbus A319 aircraft that it wet-leased from its co-founder, Turkish Airlines. The aircraft bears the registration ZA-BEL and is 12 years old, according to It has been with Turkish Airlines since 2010.

Why is Air Albania using Turkish Airlines planes?

As reported by Exit, Air Albania has still not been granted a European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) license.

Because of this, Air Albania cannot operate any flights to the European Union by itself. But, by wet-leasing Turkish Airlines aircraft, it has effectively turned itself into a marketing outfit and a Turkish Airlines subsidiary, and so it is able to launch routes to the EU.

Turkish Airlines new airport getty images
Turkish Airlines is a co-founder of Air Albania and currently owns just under half of the airline. Photo: Getty

Existing routes

After launching its first route to Istanbul, Air Albania also launched several European routes in September 2019. All of these are in Italy.

They are Milan, Rome and Bologna. The airline operates these routes as three consecutive scheduled rotations.

For example, tomorrow, Thursday 6 February 2020, the Air Albania aircraft will leave Tirana for Rome at 05:30 in the morning, and return to Tirana at 09:45. It will then leave Tirana for Milan at 11:15 before returning again at 16:30. Finally, it will depart for Bologna at 18:20, to return back to Tirana at 22:45.

The aviation market between Italy and Albania is highly lucrative and has historically been very competitive. For example, on its route between Rome and Tirana, Air Albania competes against Alitalia, which offers up to three daily flights, and Blue Panorama, which offers one.

Between Tirana and Milan, Blue Panorama flies up to three times daily, and easyJet flies up to six times weekly. At the same time, Wizz Air recently announced several new routes between Albania and Italy too.

Wizz Air A321-200 from behind
Wizz Air is also launching many new routes from Albania to Italy. Photo: Getty Images

New routes to Italy

The Prime Minister of Albania announced in a Facebook post that Air Albania will be launching three new routes on 29 March 2020. All three will be to Italy, like the existing three.

These are Verona, Bergamo and Pisa, all from Tirana. All three routes are already served by Blue Panorama as many as seven times weekly in the peak summer months and around the Easter holidays. Air Albania should brace itself for a competitive and price-sensitive market.

To operate these new routes, Air Albania will be acquiring an additional aircraft. It remains to be seen whether this will again be a Turkish Airlines plane through a wet-lease agreement.