Eastern Europe’s aviation market is growing at an unprecedented rate. Home to Europe’s fastest expanding airline, Wizz Air and the rapidly growing LOT Polish Airlines, could Eastern Europe be the next big thing in aviation?
As an up and coming part of the world, Eastern Europe is gaining popularity both as a business destination and as a tourism hotspot. Cities like Tallinn, Budapest and Prague are all in the top 50 for tech startups, with the low cost of living and culture of innovation proving attractive to talented graduates. Companies like Skype, TransferWise and Avast all began here, proving that there certainly is life after the Soviet Union.
For leisure travelers, Eastern Europe offers more adventure, fewer crowds and an ‘off the beaten track’ experience to satisfy anyone’s wanderlust. The great summer climate, unspoilt natural beauty and opportunities for cultural immersion have put many of these countries on vacation bucket lists worldwide.
As such, Bamboo Airlines, Vietnam’s newest startup airline, is already looking at launching flights to Prague. When they do, they’ll become the first Vietnamese airline to offer direct flights to the Czech Republic. United Airlines too are launching service to the Czech capital as of this summer.
But it’s not only outside airlines who have their eye on expansion, as many homegrown carriers are doing surprisingly well too.
A whole LOT of expansion
LOT Polish Airlines are undergoing massive expansion, adding new aircraft, new destinations and new hubs to their network. With a new base in Hungary, the airline is adding new routes to Brussels and Bucharest, to complement their existing services to London, Chicago and more.
As well as this, the airline’s hub at Chopin International Airport is being replaced. The new Polish airport, planned to be based around 40 km outside of Warsaw, will have in the region of five times the capacity of the current facilities. When it’s complete, it will handle around 100 million passengers each year.
Aside of LOT, other Eastern European airiness are doing rather well for themselves too. Wizz Air is the fastest growing airline in Europe, carrying 29.6m passengers in 2018, an increase of 24.7% from the year before. Over in Istanbul, the new mega airport has just entered service, promising to add massive capacity in the East of Europe.
The next Middle East?
We’ve seen massive growth in aviation in the Middle East over the past couple of decades. However, that growth is now starting to slow. Emirates reported passenger growth slowed in 2018 and are predicting further slowing down over the coming months too. As a result, they’re undergoing a massive fleet shake up and looking to move into more regional services with smaller aircraft instead.
The reason the Middle East was such a huge area for growth was largely down to location. Being equally convenient for Asia, Australia, Africa and Europe meant the Middle Eastern airlines could develop connecting services for passengers from all over the world. As the Asian and Indian demand for air travel soared, Emirates, Etihad and Qatar could step in and fill that need.
Eastern Europe has a very similar geographical advantage, being well placed to connect Asia, Europe, America and even parts of Africa. Where they have an additional advantage over the Middle East airlines is the lower cost of living in their countries. With cheaper labor costs, Eastern European have the potential to really drive down the cost of flights, making them attractive to budget travelers wanting to connect all over the world.
Do you think Eastern Europe will be the next big thing in aviation? Tell us in the comments.