Low-cost airline carrier SkyEurope gave Slovaks the opportunity to fly to many different destinations from two airports within the country’s border. But the airline’s collapse into bankruptcy in September 2009 has brought considerable changes to the country’s airports since SkyEurope had hubs in both Košice and Bratislava with the largest number of flight departures. Though other airline are seeking to fill the void left by the departure of SkyEurope, Vienna airport, with its short distance to Bratislava, has retained its popularity among passengers travelling from and to Slovakia.
The vacant space left behind by the demise of SkyEurope has created room for some new players. Since SkyEurope handled 892,939 passengers into and out of Bratislava in 2008 other discount airline companies like Ryanair, Wizz Air and Danube Wings have announced their interest in strengthening their presence in Slovakia. The following is a brief overview of Slovakia’s six international airports and the airline carriers currently serving Slovakia, along with a look at some of the manoeuvring in the air transport market since SkyEurope’s departure.
International airports in Slovakia
Bratislava – www.airportbratislava.sk is the largest airport in Slovakia, handling more than 2 million passengers in 2008 and 1.3 million passengers in the first nine months of 2009. The terminal capacity is 2.6 million passengers per year. The airport has started building a new terminal which will increase its total capacity to 5 million passengers per year. The airport has regular connections with two other airports in Slovakia, 21 cities in Europe and Tel Aviv, Israel.
Košice – www.airportkosice.sk is the second largest airport in Slovakia, serving primarily the eastern part of the country. The airport handled 590,000 passengers in 2008 and its capacity is 700,000 passengers per year. Following SkyEurope’s bankruptcy, the airport now only operates regular flights to Bratislava, Milan Bergamo, Prague and Vienna.
Piešťany – www.airport-piestany.sk is an international airport which primarily serves charter flights for visitors and patients going to Piešťany Spas as well as for irregular passenger transport. It is a smaller regional airport that can handle and service planes with a capacity of up to 95 passengers.
Poprad-Tatry – www.airport-poprad.sk is an international airport which primarily serves popular Slovak tourist destinations in the High and Low Tatras mountains. More than 58,000 passengers were handled in 2008. The terminal has capacity for 500 passengers per hour (250 arriving and 250 departing). It features regularly scheduled flights to Basel, Bologna, Bratislava, Brussels, Dublin, London, Manchester and Warsaw.
Sliač – www.airportsliac.sk is currently under reconstruction.
Žilina – www.letisko.sk is an international airport serving primarily passengers from the region of north western Slovakia with a population of approximately 1.2 million. In 2008 the airport served 12,673 passengers. The airport can handle planes with a capacity up to 60 passengers but operates only one regularly scheduled flight to Prague.
Airlines operating Regular flights from Slovakia
Aeroflot (www.aeroflot.com) is the Russian national airline operating a flight from Bratislava to Moscow. Aeroflot owns the Hungarian airlines Malév since January 2009 and has shown an interest in privatising the Czech national airline. Aeroflot operates flights to 95 destinations in 48 countries (28 destinations in Russia). The airline has not announced any new flights from/to Slovakia for the winter season 2009/2010.
Air Slovakia (www.airslovakia.sk) is the oldest Slovak airline and has operated since 1993. It handles charter flights to summer destinations and flies from Bratislava to Amritsar, Barcelona and Milan Bergamo. In November 2009 it announced it had begun negotiations for a direct flight from Bratislava to Toronto. None of Air Slovakia‘s flights are regular weekly flights and are not publicly bookable and are not included in the list of regular flights at Bratislava airport.
Austrian Airlines (www.aua.com) is now majority-owned by Lufthansa. Austrian Airlines operates a regular flight between Košice and Vienna. The company did not announce any new flights to/from Slovakia for winter season 2009/2010.
Czech Airlines (www.csa.cz) is the Czech national airline and operates flights from Prague to three Slovak destinations: Košice, Bratislava and Žilina. In September 2009, the airline announced cooperation with Danube Wings but except for this it has not published any new specific plans in Slovakia. Czech Airlines offers connections to 104 destinations in 44 countries.
Danube Wings (www.danubewings.com) is a Slovak regional airline which offered its first flight in August 2008. It operates domestic flights from Bratislava to Poprad-Tatry and from Bratislava to Košice. In September 2009 it announced cooperation with Czech Airlines and since then it has added four new destinations to its flight schedule. It operates international flights from Bratislava to Basel, Bologna, Brussels and Manchester. From the Poprad-Tatry airport Danube Wings connects with Basel, Bologna, Brussels, Dublin, London, Manchester, and Warsaw. The airline also operates flights from Košice to Milan Bergamo and to Bratislava. During summer season it operates flights from Slovakia to Split, Zadar and Rijeka.
Ryanair (www.ryanair.com) is now the largest airline in Slovakia operating to 17 destinations from Bratislava to Barcelona, Birmingham, Bologna, Bristol, Brussels (Charleroi), Dublin, Düsseldorf (Weeze), Edinburgh, Frankfurt, Liverpool, London (Stansted), Milan Bergamo, Paris-Beauvais, Pisa, Rome (Ciampino), Stockholm (Skavsta)) and two seasonal flights to Alicante and East Midlands. After SkyEurope departed from Slovakia, Ryanair announced interest in the Slovak market and has started six new flights since September. In October 2009, Michael O’Leary, Ryanair’s CEO, announced that the company wants to open 20 new flights in 2010 from Bratislava airport if it succeeds in negotiating advantageous airport fees from Bratislava Airport. If agreement is reached with Bratislava Airport, Ryanair says it will make a hub in Bratislava with 1600 jobs. Annually, the number of Ryanair’s passengers using Bratislava Airport would double to up to 2 million.
Ryanair has 36 hubs and operates more than 950 flights in 26 countries.
Sun d’Or (www.sundor.co.il) is an Israeli charter airline with its hub at Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion International Airport. The airline operates a regular flight from Bratislava to Tel Aviv. The airline did not announce any new flights from Slovakia for winter season 2009/2010.
Wizz Air (www.wizzair.com) Hungary’s low-cost airlines announced its interest in the Slovak market in 2006 when it planned to open flights to Bratislava from 13 destinations according to media reports at that time. In September 2009, the airline opened its first flight to Rome.
According to John Stephenson, vice president of Wizz Air it would like to open a hub in Bratislava and become Slovakia’s leading airline in the following years. The airline is also negotiating with the airports in Košice and Poprad-Tatry but has not yet reached any agreement. The airline has 11 hubs in 6 countries in the central and eastern Europe region offering flights on over 150 routes.
With reports from SITA, TASR and Slovak dailies.
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