The Most Notable New Airline Routes This Week

Welcome to our second routes newsletter! It is crammed with 18 new routes and route launches in the past week and a riot of celebration. If you like the content, why not sign up to receive it every week? If you’re an airline or airport, why not send us your celebratory photos so we can all join in?

Qatar Airways to Lusaka and Harare
Qatar Airways has further expanded its presence in Africa with the addition of Zambia and Zimbabwe. Photo: Kenneth Kaunda International Airport.

WestJet Begins New Amsterdam Route

WestJet began Calgary to Amsterdam on August 5th, with the route becoming the carrier’s second-longest. Currently operating twice-weekly, the 4,467-mile service will increase to three-weekly in mid-September. With an expected end date to Europe of October 31st, it uses 320-seat B787-9s, the only widebody type in the Canadian carrier’s fleet, with 16 business seats, 28 in premium economy, and 276 in economy.

WestJet competes head-to-head with KLM on the airport-pair, with the Dutch airline currently operating five-weekly, rising to daily from November. However, the two airlines have an increasingly close relationship, with WestJet placing its WS IATA code on KLM flights to 18 European airports. Round-trip demand from Calgary to these 18 alone totaled over 220,000 in 2019, booking data shows.

WestJet Amsterdam
WestJet now serves Amsterdam. Photo: Calgary International Airport.

Qatar Airways Launches Lusaka And Harare

Qatar Airways launched its next two African destinations on August 6th, with Lusaka and Harare taking off. Running three-weekly, QR1455 departs Doha at 02:20, arrives at Lusaka at 08:50, departs at 10:10, and arrives in Harare an hour later.

Returning, QR1456 leaves the Zimbabwean capital at 18:55, arrives in Zambia an hour later, departs at 21:25, and returns to Qatar at 05:55 local time the following day. (Emirates serves Harare from Dubai via Lusaka in both directions.)

While the A350-900 was used on Qatar Airways’ first round-trip to Zimbabwe, the 254-seat B787-8 (with 22 fully flat business seats) is scheduled to operate all flights from now on. Indeed, this 787 variant is Qatar Airways’ most used aircraft to Africa, while the B777-300ER is number-one across its whole network.

Qatar Airways to Lusaka and Harare
The addition of Lusaka and Harare brings to 27 the airline’s destinations across Africa this summer. Photo: Kenneth Kaunda International Airport.

JetBlue Commences Newark To Cartagena

JetBlue has inaugurated another route from Newark. Cartagena started on August 2nd, with the 2,084-mile sector JetBlue’s second-longest international route from Newark behind Barbados.

Served three-weekly, there are only 19 roundtrips, with the service operated by 162-seat A320ceos. The route ends on September 13th. Leaving Newark at 09:00, it arrives in Colombia at 13:14 local, departs at 14:15, and arrives in the US at 20:16. While it has no head-to-head competition, it supplements JetBlue’s six-weekly service to Cartagena from New York JFK.

JetBlue Newark-Cartagena
The addition of Cartagena means that JetBlue has 36 routes from Newark this summer. Photo: Rafael Núñez International Airport.

Lufthansa Takes Off From Frankfurt To Bristol

August 2nd saw Lufthansa Cityline begin Frankfurt-Bristol, one of eight UK destinations now served by the Lufthansa or its regional partner. The 504-mile route to Bristol, currently operating five-weekly, will primarily be served by 100-seat Embraer 190s.

Speaking of the route, Dave Lees, Bristol Airport’s CEO, said: “This is incredibly positive news for Bristol Airport and the region. Lufthansa is a major global airline, and this decision shows confidence in air travel returning to normal.”

This isn’t the first time that Lufthansa has served Bristol. Following the end of BA Connect on the route in 2007, it was replaced by the German carrier between 2008-2009. After four years of being unserved, bmi regional launched it in 2013. It operated until 2019, the year of the airline’s demise, partly to feed Lufthansa’s Frankfurt hub. It has now gone full circle.

Lufthansa Bristol
The service will rise to once-daily from November. Photo: Bristol Airport.

Flair Airlines Touches Down At Charlottetown

Canada’s Flair Airlines introduced Toronto to Charlottetown on August 2nd. The 827-mile sector’s first round-trip was operated by a 189-seat Boeing 737 MAX 8, C-FLEJ, delivered just two months ago.

Flair Airlines is now one of three carriers on Toronto-Charlottetown. With two weekly services (Mondays and Fridays) bookable into the winter, it competes head-to-head with behemoths Air Canada (14-weekly from mid-September) and WestJet (seven-weekly).

Flair Airlines Charlottetown
Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, joins two other destinations – Halifax and Saint John – in Flair Airlines’ Atlantic Canada network. Photo: Charlottetown Airport.

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BA CityFlyer Starts Belfast City To Glasgow

BA CityFlyer initiated its next route from Belfast City on August 2nd, with the 104-mile link to Glasgow taking off. Operating six-weekly using the 98-seat Embraer 190, BA’s regional subsidiary has replaced Loganair, which only began the route in September 2020 and whose entry replaced Flybe. In 2019, Flybe carried some 142,000 round-trip passengers from the downtown Belfast airport to Scotland’s largest city, the UK CAA indicates.

Glasgow is now one of five scheduled BA CityFlyer routes from Belfast City, joining Exeter, Leeds Bradford, London City, and Newquay. While it has no head-to-head competition to Glasgow, it competes indirectly with up to 21 weekly easyJet services from Belfast International.

Speaking at the launch of this new CityFlyer route, Katy Best, Commercial Director at Belfast City Airport, said: “Northern Ireland has strong links with Scotland and Glasgow has always been a popular route, so we’re very happy it has resumed with British Airways.”

BA CityFlyer Belfast Glasgow
BA CityFlyer now has five scheduled routes from Belfast City. Photo: George Best Belfast City Airport.

Iberia Introduces Ljubljana From Madrid

Iberia introduced Madrid to Ljubljana on August 2nd, a route it had planned to begin in 2020 but was delayed for obvious reasons. Intriguingly, the Slovenian capital was Iberia’s first new route chosen with the help of the carrier’s social media followers.

Last served by Slovenia’s defunct airline Adria, Iberia’s Ljubljana offering is very time-limited: twice-weekly during August only using A320s. However, Janez Krašnja, Fraport Slovenija’s Head of Airline Management, said: “We are very pleased to welcome Iberia for the first time… we expect the carrier to return next season with more frequencies.”

Iberia to Ljubljana
Madrid is once again connected with Slovenia. Photo: Ljubljana Jože Pučnik Airport.

Ryanair Expands At Memmingen

Memmingen Airport, serving the wider Munich area in Bavaria, welcomed two new Ryanair routes to Greece at the start of August for five to the country. Corfu took off on August 2nd, while Rhodes followed the day after. Both run twice-weekly; Corfu ends on October 29th and Rhodes the next day.

While Corfu hasn’t previously operated from Memmingen, Rhodes was served by Corendon Airlines in 2020. While this isn’t now operating – so the gap that Ryanair is focusing on – it is bookable with Corendon next summer.

In summer 2021, Ryanair is Memmingen’s second-largest carrier by available seats after Wizz Air. Some 25 Ryanair routes are bookable, including Zagreb, which begins on September 3rd, and Riga on October 29th. And Ryanair will start Amman on November 3rd.

Ryanair to Corfu and Rhodes
Ryanair now has five routes from Memmingen to Greece. Photo: Memmingen Airport.

Loganair Begins Cardiff To Edinburgh

Loganair launched Cardiff to Edinburgh on August 2nd, a route long served by Flybe (2008-2020), along with bmibaby (until 2011) and CityJet (2014-2015).

As the CEO of Cardiff Airport, Spencer Birns, said: “We’re pleased that Loganair has stepped in to re-establish a vital connection between Wales and Scotland with a regular Cardiff-Edinburgh service.” According to the UK’s CAA, you can see why: the route had 43% of Cardiff’s domestic passengers in 2019.

Despite 111,415 round-trip passengers in 2019, the airport-pair was one of the few larger domestic UK markets not quickly replaced following Flybe’s demise. Loganair had announced it would operate from March 23rd, 2020, but it didn’t do so from greatly reduced demand and easyJet’s increased capacity between Bristol and Edinburgh.

Loganair Cardiff-Edinburgh
With five-weekly flights, the 315-mile link is served by 49-seat Embraer 145s. Photo: Cardiff Airport.

flynas Launches First Central Asia Service

August 5th saw Saudi Arabia’s flynas begin its next new route, linking Riyadh to the Uzbek capital, Tashkent, its first destination in Central Asia. The total Saudi-Uzbekistan had approximately 70,000 round-trip passengers, booking data shows. This was, in part, from Uzbekistan Airways’ non-stop scheduled service to Jeddah, which is not now operating.

Operating once-weekly until October 28th, flynas’ Tashkent service leaves Riyadh at 04:45 and arrives back at 18:45. The honor for the first rotation went to A320neo HZ-NS33, delivered in November 2020, with 174 seats in an all-economy layout.

It had a flight time of five hours and 20 minutes in both directions because of a significant detour – through Azerbaijan and Armenia to eastern Turkey and then through Iraq – to avoid Iranian airspace.

flynas to Tashkent
flynas is now the only airline flying non-stop between Saudi Arabia and Uzbekistan. Photo: Islam Karimov Tashkent International Airport.

Viva Launches Medellín To Mexico City

Viva Air Colombia – or now simply Viva – took off from Medellín, Colombia’s second-largest city, to Mexico City on August 3rd. Served four-weekly, the route will increase to five-weekly come November, all presently scheduled by 188-seat A320ceos.

It competes directly with Aeromexico and its seven-weekly offering. It appears that Viva Air is benefiting from a gap in the market following the end of Interjet, which ceased to exist in December 2020. In summer 2019, Interjet had seven-weekly flights from Medellín to the Mexican capital.

Viva Medellin-Mexico City
At 1,834 miles, Medellín-Mexico City is the carrier’s second-longest route behind Bogota-Mexico City. Photo: José María Córdova International Airport.

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PIA Starts Quetta To Peshawar

Pakistan International Airlines took off from Quetta to Peshawar on August 6th. The 372-mile sector, from the state of Balochistan to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, links Pakistan’s 10th and sixth-largest cities.

Operating twice-weekly on Tuesdays and Fridays, the new service uses 48-seat ATR-42-500s with a block time of one hour and 45 minutes to one hour and 50 minutes. It begins and ends in Karachi, the Karachi having PIA’s second-largest amount of capacity this summer.

PIA Quetta-Peshawar
This is the first time in numerous years that Quetta and Peshawar have been served non-stop, but a one-stop service – mainly via Zhob – operated until 2007. Photo: Quetta International Airport.

Canadian leisure airline Air Transat inaugurated its first-ever service from Québec City to Vancouver on August 2nd. With a once-weekly flight using the A321neo, no other airline has operated the route for at least 17 years, which is as far back as our data goes. Québec  City-Vancouver had over 40,000 transit passengers in 2019, booking data indicates; it is decent-sized but long (2,360 miles).

Across the rest of 2021, Québec City is Air Transat’s third route from Vancouver, joining Toronto and Montreal. Meanwhile, the carrier has served Québec City for many years, with Cancun, Fort Lauderdale, Holguin, Orlando International, Puerto Plata, Punta Cana, and Varadero all bookable.

Air Transat Québec City Vancouver
Air Transat’s new route means that Vancouver is served non-stop. Photo: Québec City Jean Lesage International Airport.

Belavia Introduces Minsk To Kutaisi, Georgia

Belavia began a third route to the Caucasian country of Georgia on August 4th with the introduction of Minsk to Kutaisi. This joins existing services to Tbilisi, the Georgian capital, and Batumi. And it becomes Belavia’s fifth route to the wider Caucasus, joining Yerevan, Armenia, and Baku, Azerbaijan. This summer Belarus’ flag carrier has more capacity to Batumi than any other destination in this area.

Having operated between 2013 and 2015, the carrier’s Minsk-Kutaisi service now operates twice-weekly until October 27th using a mixture of aircraft: mainly the 107-seat Embraer 195LR and 76-seat Embraer 175, but also the B737-300 and B737-800.

Belavia Minsk-Kutaisi
Belavia is serving Kutaisi twice-weekly. Photo: Kutaisi International Airport.

SkyUp Begins Four Routes To Saudi Arabia

The past week has been an important one for the expansion of the fast-growing Ukrainian low-cost carrier SkyUp beyond its traditional scope. It has introduced four routes to Saudi Arabia from Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, and the second-largest city, Lviv.

Kyiv Boryspil to Dammam started on August 3rd (once-weekly), followed by Kyiv-Riyadh the following day (twice-weekly), Lviv-Dammam on August 5th (up to twice-weekly), and Kyiv-Jeddah on August 8th (twice-weekly).

These four routes join charter flights from Lviv to Gassim that have already started. SkyUp’s expansion comes soon after flynas, the Saudi airline, began Riyadh and Jeddah to Kyiv and Riyadh and Gassim to Lviv.

SkyUp to Saudi Arabia
The reason for expansion into Saudi Arabia: Ukraine is one of the few countries that Saudis can visit with only a PCR test and no visa. Photo: King Fahd International Airport.

Pobeda Adds Bodrum From Moscow Vnukovo

Russian low-cost carrier Pobeda reintroduced Moscow Vnukovo to Bodrum on August 3rd after last serving it in 2019. With three-weekly services until October 2nd using 189-seat B737-800s, Pobeda competes head-to-head with Turkish Airlines (four-weekly; B737-800s) and AZUR Air (seven-weekly; B777-300ERs). It also competes indirectly with a host of others from Sheremetyevo and Domodedovo.

While Russia is Bodrum’s number-one international country-market this summer, helped by COVID cuts to the UK and Germany, it remains a relative minnow of a destination compared to Antalya – which has about 14 times the number of seats this summer.

Pobeda to Bodrum
Bodrum joins Pobeda’s Turkey routes from Vnukovo to Antalya, Dalaman, Gazipaşa, Istanbul Airport, and Istanbul Sabiha Gökçen. Photo: Milas-Bodrum Airport.

Air Canada Resumes Multiple Routes

Air Canada resumed various routes recently, including Calgary to Frankfurt (August 1st); Toronto-Dublin (August 1st); Montreal-Tel Aviv (August 1st); Toronto-Zurich (August 3rd); and Montreal-London Heathrow (August 3rd).

Celebrating the return of Air Canada was Frankfurt Airport. This summer, the Canadian airline has the third-highest number of long-haul seats from Frankfurt of any non-German carrier, behind only United Airlines and Emirates. Toronto, Montreal, and Calgary are served.

In 2019, Air Canada’s Calgary-Frankfurt service saw over 80,000 round-trip passengers connect from the Alberta airport over the important Star Alliance hub in Europe with Lufthansa. The booking data indicates that Calgary to Delhi, Beirut, Zurich, Munich, Addis Ababa, Tehran, Vienna, Berlin, Hamburg, and Prague saw the most passengers.

Air Canada Frankfurt
Air Canada’s Calgary-Frankfurt currently operates three-weekly, rising to four-weekly in September and once-daily in November. Photo: Frankfurt Airport.

Lufthansa Is Back in Port Harcourt

After an absence of over 16 months, Lufthansa resumed Frankfurt to the southern Nigerian city of Port Harcourt on August 2nd. The route, which began in 2005, presently operates five-weekly using 255-seat A330-300s with 42 fully flat business seats.

In 2019, booking data obtained via OAG Traffic Analyzer shows over 41,000 round-trip passengers connected from Port Harcourt over Frankfurt. London, Paris, Houston, Milan, Amsterdam, Manchester, Munich, Dallas, Hamburg, and Berlin were the top-10 transit markets. The inclusion of Houston, and so far up the list, indicates that Port Harcourt is the country’s oil capital.

Lufthansa Nigeria
Routing non-stop to Port Harcourt, LH596 leaves Frankfurt at 11:45 and arrives at 16:45 local time. Returning, it departs Port Harcourt at 18:05 and returns to Frankfurt at 05:15 the next day via the Nigerian capital, Abuja. Photo: Port Harcourt International Airport.

That’s it for the second edition of our routes newsletter. To get something like this in your inbox every week, please sign up for our weekly routes newsletter.