Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Aerolíneas de Bajo Costo

¿Por qué Latinoamérica no tiene aerolíneas de bajo precio? Hasta los países ex-comunistas ya tienen. Este cliente potencial está desolado. Snif....
Budget air finds E. Europe
Andrea Dudikova
Associated Press

... Knisova is one of many travelers from new European Union members in the former eastern Europe, such as Slovakia, Hungary and Poland, accustomed to long and uncomfortable bus or train trips around the continent, who are discovering the rest of Europe through the flights available to them by low-cost airlines. advertisement

SkyEurope Airlines was the first budget airline to begin direct flights to London and Paris from Slovakia in 2003. The Bratislava-based airline since has expanded its destination list and entered the Hungarian and Polish markets with the same business plan.

"Central and Eastern Europe is in a catch-up phase," said Christian Mandl, one of the airline's founders. "Lots of people are changing their consumer habits . . . going from the train and the bus to the plane."

SkyEurope now employs 700 people and transported 1.2 million passengers in the year that ended April 2005, flying to 22 destinations.

Other and considerably bigger budget airlines also have taken note of the opportunities in the region.

EasyJet PLC has been flying from London's Stansted Airport to Prague, the Czech capital, since 1999. Last year, the British budget carrier added a flight to Slovenia's capital Ljubljana, and later started flights to Budapest, Warsaw and Bratislava.

Irish budget carrier Ryanair announced in May that it would begin five new routes to Poland and Slovakia as of Oct. 30, when it will operate daily flights from Stansted to Polish destinations and a twice-daily route to Bratislava. Ryanair recently reported a better-than-expected 29 percent increase in net profits for the fiscal year


Not all budget airlines have succeeded, however. Air Polonia, a Polish carrier offering flights to other European destinations, shut down in December after an Irish investment group unexpectedly pulled out of a planned investment.

Mandl still believes air transport in the region will increase as a result of economic growth, which is faster in new EU countries than in the older ones like Germany or France.

Before SkyEurope entered the market, he said, flying was reserved to the elite in Slovakia, where the average salary is $512 a month, while others would travel for endless hours by bus to faraway continental destinations.

"We're telling people that they should try to fly instead of spending 24 hours on the bus," Mandl said. "It may look strange from a western European point of view, but many people have flown for the first time, at least in Slovakia, with SkyEurope.

"This is a process of education, explaining to people that basically we're a bus with wings."