Today, 19 June, Eurowings deployed an Airbus A319 in Pristina, Kosovo. The airline had announced it would do so in May. This was just three months after the collapse of Germania, then Pristina’s biggest airline.
Pristina International Airport will be the second Eurowings base outside Germany and Austria, the first being Palma de Mallorca. This is a significant development for a country looking to improve its air connectivity as a way of strengthening ties with its large diaspora spread across Europe.
Eurowings fills the gap left by Germania
There are several reasons why Eurowings chose to base an aircraft in Kosovo before first doing so in airports where it has a more significant presence. The primary reason that prompted this is the bankruptcy of German carrier Germania. As we reported at the time, this happened in February this year.
Germania itself had planned to open a base and station an A319 in Pristina in March this year. The airline collapsed just a month before this. However, as reported by Ex-Yu Aviation News, the Swiss arm of Germania survived and was bought by Kosovan tour operator, Air Prishtina. This development directly influenced all decisions Eurowings made after Germania collapsed.
It is highly curious that the first two flights Eurowings is launching from Pristina are Basel and Geneva. Eurowings itself commands a minimal presence in both of these Swiss airports. Pristina will be only the second route Eurowings flies out of Geneva, together with Dusseldorf.
Eurowings is clearly acting out of desire to kill off Germania Flug, which has since rebranded as Chair Airlines. Chair Airlines may indeed be looking to establish a base in Pristina, like its parent airline Germania had planned for March of this year. The quick move that Eurowings made in Pristina turned out to be an excellent strategic decision.
Pristina Airport played its part too
No single carrier dominates traffic at Pristina Airport. The management strategically maintains a diversified range of airlines. This follows the 2013 bankruptcy of Belle Air Europe, then Pristina’s biggest carrier. The bankruptcy saw Pristina shed about 12% of its passengers from 2013 to 2014. If Adria Airways ends up collapsing as anticipated, Pristina will be unaffected thanks to this diversification strategy.
As part of its aim to attract new carriers, Pristina Airport launched an extensive incentives programme last year. As published by the airport, all new routes will be given a 100% discount on landing fees for the first two years. Also part of the incentives programme in the first two year is a 100% discount on parking charges and an allocation of airside space free of charge.
The proactive approach by Pristina airport definitely played a part in luring Eurowings to base an aircraft there.
Eurowings is expanding in the region
Eurowings opening a base in Pristina is just another step on the airline’s journey towards dominating the region that is the former Yugoslavia. The only country in the region that Eurowings completely withdrew from is Serbia, where the national carrier is expanding at an impressive rate. Meanwhile, the airline is also launching routes and increasing frequencies in Croatia as well as Bosnia and Herzegovina.
In Croatia, Eurowings flies to six airports – as many as the flag carrier Croatia Airlines. In Bosnia and Herzegovina it launched flights from Sarajevo to Berlin this year. It also increased capacity on its routes to Mostar. Dusseldorf-Mostar and Stuttgart-Mostar are now both flown by Airbus A319s, compared to the Dash 8-Q400s that were used last year.
Eurowings is also about to penetrate the Macedonian market this year. It will launch flights to Ohrid from both Stuttgart and Dusseldorf in July.
With this level of expansion forming a continuous pattern over the past years, are we about to see Eurowings open several more bases in the region?