Budget Airline Germanwings Eyes Soft Landing at Pulkovo
Published: March 7, 2006 (Issue # 1150)
Budget airline Germanwings is to start regular flights between St. Petersburg and Germany. The first low-cost carrier to establish itself in the city, Germanwings will serve Cologne and Bonn three times a week from April 29, Prime-TASS reported last week.
“The opening of a new route is aimed at improving economic relations between St. Petersburg and Cologne, where many companies of strategic importance to German economic development are based,” Prime-TASS reported citing a statement released by Germanwings.
According to Andreas Engel, director for International Public Relations at Germanwings, the company will use one of their new Airbus planes for the service to St. Petersburg. The company has an Airbus fleet of 22 planes.
“We hope to reach a seat load factor of over 80 percent. The average seat load factor is 82.4 percent on all of our 44 routes,” Engel said Monday by e-mail from Cologne.
Last summer Germanwings started regular flights three times a week from Moscow to Cologne, Bonn and Berlin. Since March 26 it starts flights between Moscow and Stuttgart. As for further expansion, the company is still considering its opportunities.
“At the moment we are happy with Moscow and St. Petersburg. Further plans related to Russia will be discussed at end of this year,” Engel said.
The first foreign budget carrier to start flights to Moscow was Germania Express selling one-way tickets from Moscow to Germany at around 120 euros.
However, thanks to active lobbying from national carriers authorities have set limits on discounts — tickets for Germanwings flights from Moscow cost about $100, though flights from Germany to Moscow are available at 19 euros, all taxes and fees included. The same principle will apply for flights to and from St. Petersburg.
Maria Tarabarinova, sales manager at Sindbad Travel, suggested that the Germanwings service will be popular among passengers used to cheap tickets, like those flying to Dusseldorf with Pulkovo airline.
The new routes take advantage of increased demand due to the holding of the World Cup soccer tournament in Germany in June and July, Tarabarinova said.
Tarabarinova said that in a couple of years, after assessing their operations in St. Petersburg, Germanwings could start flying to Yekaterinburg, Novosibirsk or Kazan.
Nevertheless, the $100 limit set by Russian authorities will prevent many budget airlines from establishing themselves in the country, Tarabarinova said.
“Ryanair has been flying to Tampere, Finland, for a long time and is considering opening a second route, possibly in Lappenranta. This proves that the company is interested in the Russian market,” she said.
In Europe low cost carriers serve about 10 million passengers a month. Some of them are subsidiaries of larger companies such as Go (British Airways) and Buzz (KLM).
Germanwings is a subsidiary of Eurowings, in which Lufhansa holds a stake.
“Through our partner Germanwings we have a successful and active participation in the ‘no frills’ sector,” said Silvio Uhlfelder, regional manager of Lufthansa in St. Petersburg and the Northwest region of Russia.
“No-frills airlines limit their service to the minimum and offer only point-to-point flights. In our opinion they will generate more air traffic, as people who up until now only traveled by bus or car might switch to planes, and with time are likely to develop the need to fly in more comfort,” he said.