Will FlyBosnia Succeed On Its New Route To London Luton?

FlyBosnia is launching flights to London Luton from its base in Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina, on Tuesday 24th September. Simple Flying previously wrote about FlyBosnia as our airline startup of the week, and we also expressed the view that the airline is likely to be successful due to Bosnia’s growing religious tourism. As FlyBosnia enters the European market for the first time, we examine whether this strategic development will lead to success.

FlyBosnia's A319 fleet is set to grow.
FlyBosnia now has a fleet of two Airbus A319s. Photo: FlyBosnia

Potential for success

Currently, there is no direct link between Sarajevo and any of the London airports. This is despite reports indicating that London is Sarajevo’s most unserved destination.

Furthermore, Ex-Yu Aviation News outlined that Croatia Airlines shuttles a lot of passengers between London and the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina through its hub in Zagreb. Croatia Airlines operates 13 weekly flights between Sarajevo and Zagreb at this time.

Last year, The Telegraph claimed that “UK airlines should wake up and launch flights” to Sarajevo. After many years of demand remaining unserved through a direct air link, there will now finally be a way to travel between the United Kingdom and Sarajevo directly. It is thus unsurprising that FlyBosnia has chosen London as its first European route.

Croatia Airlines
Croatia Airlines flies double daily (except Saturdays) to Sarajevo with its Dash 8-Q400 aircraft. Photo: Jakov Fabinger, Simple Flying

However, FlyBosnia’s expansion into Europe will not necessarily be as successful as its launch of flights to the Middle East has been. A pressing issue is that citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina still require a visa to enter the United Kingdom. But other concerns remain too.

Wizz Air failed between London and Bosnia

Wizz Air previously maintained flights between London (Luton) and Tuzla Airport, which is another city in Bosnia and Herzegovina. It is just 50 miles north of Sarajevo, from where FlyBosnia will operate. But services between London and Tuzla were discontinued in October 2017 after just a year of operations.

However, the cancellation of the London-Tuzla route might not have been due to a lack of demand for air travel between the United Kingdom and Bosnia and Herzegovina. Instead, it might have been due to Wizz Air changing its strategy.

Why London Luton?

Still, other concerns remain about both FlyBosnia itself and the choice of London Luton as the airport for the Sarajevo-London route. Some local media have expressed concerns about a national airline that has a website in two languages, of which one is English and the other Arabic, but not in any of the three official languages of the country it is meant to be the flag carrier for.

Wizz Air A321 in London Luton
Wizz Air used to fly between London and Bosnia and Herzegovina but discontinued the route. Photo: Jakov Fabinger, Simple Flying

It is also unclear what codeshare and interline agreements FlyBosnia intends to develop in the United Kingdom. Its options in London Luton are limited. Luton is served by fewer carriers than the likes of Stansted, Heathrow or Gatwick.

London Luton also has no long haul services that FlyBosnia’s passengers could connect to. This also means that FlyBosnia’s aircraft will not be filled by overseas passengers on their way into Sarajevo.

Instead, these passengers heading to and coming from overseas will continue using the Lufthansa Group airlines, Air Serbia and Croatia Airlines to reach the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina and its surroundings.