The Most Notable New Airline Routes This Week

We’re delighted to introduce our first dedicated routes email newsletter. Sent out weekly, with the first on August 3rd, it is jam-packed with the week’s latest route launches, relaunches, and more. Take a look at what was in our first edition of the email newsletter below. If you like the content, why not sign up for free?

Ryanair starts Sofia-Varna
Ryanair’s new domestic Bulgaria service, from Sofia to Varna, is one of many covered routes this week. Photo: Andrey Rusev | Varna Airport.

Lufthansa starts Newark to Malta

Your eyes haven’t deceived you. Lufthansa inaugurated Newark to Malta on July 30th, with this 4,616-mile route operating until October 11th with 12 round-trip flights in all. The reason? Transporting cruise passengers, with Lufthansa working in partnership with Viking Cruises. As this service doesn’t touch Germany, it’s a seventh-freedom operation.

LH489 left Newark at 21:38 and arrived in Malta at 11:27 the following day, local time. Returning on July 31st, LH488 departed Malta, located in the Mediterranean Sea in-between Italy and Libya, at 13:02, arriving back in New Jersey at 17:15.

The honor for the initial rotation went to D-AIXL, an A350-900 delivered to Lufthansa in November 2018. All 12 services will be by 293-seat A350s, complete with 48 seats in business, 21 premium economy, and 224 in economy. ‘Xray Lima arrived in Newark from Lufthansa’s Munich hub and then returned there after its Malta operation.

Lufthansa Newark-Malta
Lufthansa is operating 12 round-trips from Newark to Malta. Photo: Marc Suhr, Lufthansa.

Breeze Airways begins three Norfolk services

On July 29th, Norfolk, Virginia, welcomed three new Breeze Airways routes to Columbus (twice-weekly), Hartford (four-weekly), and Providence (four-weekly). Meanwhile, on that July day the new entrant also began Rhode Island TF Green International Airport to Pittsburgh (four-weekly).

This summer, Breeze has seven routes from Norfolk and three from Providence. It is the sixth-largest passenger carrier of seven at Norfolk and the eighth-largest of 10 at Providence. Of the four routes introduced, none have head-to-head competition.

Looking at the past 17 years, only Providence-Pittsburgh has been served non-stop: first by US Airways until 2008 (because Pittsburgh stopped being a hub), and then by OneJet from 2017 to 2018.

Breeze Airways Norfolk
This summer, Breeze has seven routes from Norfolk. Photo: Norfolk International Airport.

Wizz Air opens Naples base

Wizz Air opened its Naples base on July 30th with two A321s. Having first served Naples in 2009 from Bucharest, Budapest, and Prague, the ultra-low-cost carrier’s network has grown to 26 routes this summer. These include various new routes that started on the first day of the base, such as Chania, Ibiza, Milan Linate, and Olbia.

Wizz Air’s Naples seats exceed 435,000 this summer, data from OAG shows, up by 239% over the 128,000 it had in summer 2019. Milan Malpensa has by far the most capacity, with the domestic market – now comprising six routes – accounting for half of the ULCC’s Naples capacity this summer.

Wizz Air opens Naples baseWizz Air opens Naples base
Wizz Air’s new Naples base is its sixth across Italy, all launched since the pandemic started. Photo: Naples International Airport.

SriLankan Airlines launches Moscow

After an absence of six years, SriLankan Airlines is back in Moscow. It resumed service from Colombo to Moscow Domodedovo on July 30th, as UL533 departed Sri Lanka at 22:32 and arrived in Russia some eight hours and seventeen minutes later at 04:19, local time.

The 4,041-mile route, which has 14 round-trips until the end of October, uses 297-seat A330-300s, with 28 fully flat business seats. SriLankan Airlines last operated from Colombo to the Russian capital between 2011 and 2015, mainly via Dubai. Funnily enough, it primarily used the A320 on the long one-stop service.

While SriLankan has no direct competition from Domodedovo, it does compete indirectly with a twice-weekly service by Aeroflot from its Sheremetyevo hub. Russian demand to Sri Lanka has grown enormously in recent years, with booking data indicating that around 46,000 round-trip passengers transited from Domodedovo to Colombo alone in 2019.

SriLankan Airlines begins Moscow
SriLankan Airlines last served Moscow in 2015. Photo: Moscow Domodedovo Airport.

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Sky Express jets from Athens to Heathrow

Sky Express began Athens to London Heathrow on August 1st, making three airlines on that airport-pair for the first time in a decade. Operating six-weekly, it competes head-to-head with British Airways (31-weekly in early August) and Aegean (21-weekly). Heathrow to Athens has 58-weekly flights, up by 12% versus the same week in 2019.

Sky Express’s first flight, GQ700, departed Greece at 11:49 and arrived in London at 13:09 local. Returning, GQ701 left at 14:53 and landed in Athens at 20:00. It was operated by SX-NIG, one of six 174-seat, all-economy A320neos in the airline’s fleet. ‘India Golf was delivered to Sun Express in June 2020.

Sky Express begins Heathrow
Sky Express is one of three airlines between Heathrow and Athens. Photo: Menzies Aviation.

Ryanair begins its first domestic Bulgaria route

Ryanair began Sofia to Varna on August 1st, connecting the Bulgarian capital to the popular Black Sea resort city. It was previously operated by fellow ultra-low-cost carrier Wizz Air between 2017 and 2018, and before that by Wizz Air Bulgaria from 2008-2010.

Ryanair’s new service presently runs six-weekly using a Sofia-based B737-800 with 189 seats. The first flight reportedly had 157 passengers, making a seat load factor of 83%. On most days, it leaves the Bulgarian capital at about 06:25 and returns at 08:50. It competes directly with Bulgaria Air with 21-weekly services.

At just 227 miles, the flight time is short, at less than 40 minutes. In contrast, it takes over five hours by car and around nine hours by train. Therefore, air travel is a straightforward way of reaching the seaside location or the country’s capital.

Ryanair starts Sofia-Varna
Ryanair competes directly with Bulgaria Air on Sofia-Varna. Photo: Andrey Rusev | Varna Airport.

Azimuth begins Krasnodar to Larnaca

Cyprus Airports has welcomed another new airline at Larnaca this summer. Russia’s Azimuth started Krasnodar – a route of 760 miles across the Black Sea and Turkey – on July 31st. It uses 103-seat Sukhoi SSJ100s, the sole aircraft in its fleet, although it now has A220-300s on order.

Operating once-weekly on Saturdays until October 30th, it competes directly with Nordwind (A321s), S7 Airlines (A320s), Ural Airlines (A319s), and Azur Air (B757-200s). Azimuth is the fifth-largest airline at Krasnodar this summer, with a small network of international routes to the Caucasus and Central Asia – and, now, the popular holiday location of Cyprus.

Azimuth is currently one of five airlines between Krasnodar and Larnaca. Photo: Cyprus Airports.

flyadeal replaces Saudia on Dammam to Bisha

Saudi Arabia’s flyadeal, the low-cost subsidiary of Saudia, began another domestic service on 1st August when Bisha to Dammam took off. The 638-mile service operates three-weekly using 186-seat A320s, with the carrier’s fleet comprising only of A320ceos and neos.

flyadeal has replaced its parent on this airport-pair, suggesting that a lower-cost platform was required, presumably because of insufficient financial performance. Saudia operated it until 2008 and then again from 2011 until July 2021. flyadeal then took over, its sole route – for now – from Bisha.

Flyadeal Bisha
Bisha is a new airport in Flyadeal’s network. Photo: Flyadeal.

All Nippon celebrates 35 years at Washington

Having started in 1986, Japan’s All Nippon Airways has celebrated 35 years of serving Washington Dulles from Tokyo. In 2019, 139,552 round-trip passengers were carried, T-100 data shows, of which one-third connected over Tokyo, especially to Ho Chi Minh City and Bangkok. Meanwhile, around 15% transited over Dulles to fellow Star Alliance partner United’s services.

Fast-forward to August 2021, and ANA operates Tokyo Narita to Dulles three-weekly – obviously impacted by COVID – using 215-B787-9s. This is the lowest-capacity configuration of the B787-9 in its fleet and the highest premium option.

ANA 35 years
Here’s to another 35 years! Photo: Washington Dulles International Airport.

15 years for Hainan Airlines at Brussels

China’s Hainan Airlines has celebrated 15 years of flying to Brussels. The carrier inaugurated operations in June 2006 with a non-stop, three-times-weekly service from Beijing Capital using the 210-seat B767-300ER. Since then, the A330-200, A330-300, A340-600, and B787-9 have all operated the route. And now, 15 years later, the carrier has carried over one million people between the Chinese and Belgian capitals.

Shanghai Pudong to Brussels operated between 2010 and 2011, and again from 2017 to 2019. With over 80,000 passengers in 2019 – and undoubtedly a large amount of cargo – Shanghai is a big and important market that’s now unserved.

Meanwhile, Hainan Airlines began Shenzhen-Brussels in 2018, followed by Xian two years later. In 2021, Hainan Airlines operates Beijing-Brussels twice-weekly non-stop using the A330-200/300, returning via Xian. Happy 15th anniversary!

Hainan Airlines 15 years at Brussels
Happy anniversary! Photo: Brussels Airport.

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