Brussels-Vilnius flights begin

  • 2009-04-02
  • By Adam Mullett

NEW FLIGHTS: Brussels Air will do its part to step into the Lithuanian market and fill the place left open by FlyLAL and airBaltic.

VILNIUS - After months of limited connections from Vilnius to other cities, Brussels Airlines has begun to reopen the market by starting flights four times per week to take the place of FlyLAL and airBaltic, the two companies that previously ran the route.

"Lithuania is one of the more dynamic of the Baltic countries, with an economic growth rate that has exceeded that of most European countries over the past several years," the company said in a press release.
"Vilnius also has a large potential in the area of tourism. Vilnius was recently rated as one Europe's coolest capitals for 2009. Amongst the media, the city has become a destination not to be missed for the coming summer," the press release said.

Ugne Adomaviciute, spokesperson for the minister of transport, told TBT that the flights have already begun with the first flight close to fully booked.
"It's very important to be connected with other cities in the [capital of] culture year. Until 2001, they [Belgium] didn't have a national carrier, so there is a lot of support. They understand that you need connections," she said.

The airline is currently using the 100-seat AVRO RJ 85, but could upgrade to larger aircraft and increase frequency of the route if it proves popular.
The airline will offer flights starting from 150 litas (43.50 euros), according to Adomaveciute.
Brussels Airlines is one of a handful of airlines that have stepped up to fill the shoes of FlyLAL and airBaltic, who were competing for top spot in Lithuania until the start of the year when FlyLAL went bankrupt and airBaltic started to focus on its home market, Latvia.

Other companies have said that they will will soon join Brussels Airlines.
Russia's Aeroflot and UTair will offer flights to Moscow, Donbass Aero will fly to Kiev and Bulgaria Aero will fly to Varna.

Vilnius has so far failed to attract a new airline to take the lead position in the country because there is no clear vision for the future, the new Vilnius Internation Airport (VIA) director Tomas Vaisvila said. These problems could be put to rest now, since the new mayor has given his support to the airport, he said.
"It is very difficult to talk with new air companies, which are considering the possibility of the Vilnius airport to have its technical base, to build their own offices 's to invest in the Vilnius airport. We are unable to even talk about it in detail, because there is no approved plan, [but] the mayor has promised full support," Vaisvila said.
VIA recently cut the landing fees from 45 to 25 litas per ton and has eliminated its 10 percent night-time surcharge.

The airport has suffered from infighting between the company and its previous anchor tenant FlyLAL, which wanted to build its own terminal and use its own staff.
The former director of VIA was forced to resign after the president demanded that the transport minister step in and mediate the problems plaguing the airport.

Some 13 companies will offer direct flights from Vilnius to 16 foreign destinations during the summer season. A year ago 13 companies operated direct flights to 37 destinations.
April 1 also saw the opening of airBaltic's new Riga-Palanga route for the summer season.

The economic woes hitting the country will stop some Lithuanians from enjoying the new routes.
Just 29 percent of Lithuanians are planning to travel during their vacations this year, while nearly two-fifths are still undecided, a recent Eurobarometer survey has shown.
About 11 percent of those still planning to go on holiday despite the economic crisis intend to make short-stay trips of one to three nights, and only 5 percent will take two weeks.
Some 53 percent of the respondents are planning to spend their holidays domestically and the remaining 47 percent intend to travel abroad.

The financial crisis is believed to be responsible for the country being the least decided in the EU on travel plans. One-fourth of those Lithuanians who traveled in 2008 are still undecided about their 2009 plans.
The Eurobarometer survey found that the highest proportion of respondents planning at least one holiday trip in 2009 was in Slovenia (74 percent) and Finland (70 percent) and that the lowest proportion was in Portugal (24 percent), Lithuania (29 percent) and Hungary (31 percent).