Sole Albanian-owned carrier gains market share as TIA handles record passengers

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times February 13, 2019 11:43

Sole Albanian-owned carrier gains market share as TIA handles record passengers

Story Highlights

  • The sole Albanian-owned carrier has gained considerable share in Albania’s air transport market, in only slightly more than a couple of years after launching its operations as a Tirana-based company owned by two Albanian businessmen. Albawings, which links Tirana to more than a dozen Italian destinations, increased its market share to 11 percent in 2018 when it handled more than 300,000 passengers, a 50 percent hike compared to 2017, according to the Albanian Civil Aviation Authority.

Related Articles

By Ervin Lisaku

TIRANA, Feb. 13 – The sole Albanian-owned carrier has gained considerable share in Albania’s air transport market, in only slightly more than a couple of years after launching its operations as a Tirana-based company owned by two Albanian businessmen.

Albawings, which links Tirana to more than a dozen Italian destinations, increased its market share to 11 percent in 2018 when it handled more than 300,000 passengers, a 50 percent hike compared to 2017, according to the Albanian Civil Aviation Authority.

Founded by two Albanian entrepreneurs with a background in the travel industry, Albawings has been linking Tirana to Italy, the host of some 500,000 Albanian migrants, since August 2016.

It is currently the sole Albanian-owned carrier in a market that is dominated by Italian carriers, handling 40 percent of passengers to and from Tirana International Airport, Albania’s sole international airport.

The sole Albanian-owned carrier serving Italian destinations, increased its market share to 8 percent in 2017, up from a mere 2 percent in 2016 when it launched its operations.

Former Albanian-owned Belle Air carrier had a market share of more than 50 percent in 2013 before it surprisingly went bankrupt after eight years of operations.

Last year, Albania unveiled ambitious plans to build a new airport south of the country and launch a flag carrier in cooperation with Turkish investors and the Turkish government, but the projects are currently stuck in limbo.

A 49 percent stake in Air Albania is held by Turkish Airlines, Turkey’s flag carrier and one of the world’s leading carriers where the Turkish government controls almost half of its shares.

 

Italian companies dominate

Italian-owned carriers handled more than 40 percent of passengers flying to and from Tirana, mainly linking Albania to Italy, a top travel destination for Albanians regularly travelling to meet friends and relatives, doing business or on holiday.

Facing tougher competition by Albanian-owned Albawings, and Ernest Airlines, another Italian low-cost carrier that launched operations in 2016, Italian-owned Blue Panorama saw its market share drop to 21 percent in 2018, when it handled more than 600,000 passengers.

Italian-owned Ernest Airlines almost doubled its market share to 12 percent in 2018 when it handled around 400,000 passengers.

Meanwhile, Alitalia, Italy’s embattled flag carrier, saw the number of its passengers to and from Tirana decline for a third year in a row and its market share drop to 9 percent.

Among other companies, Turkish Airlines, mainly offering flights to Turkey, an emerging travel destination for Albanians, had a 6 percent market share, handling around 200,000 passengers. Pegasus Airlines, a Turkish low-cost carrier mainly serving Turkish destinations also increased its market share to 4 percent, handling around 100,000 passengers.

Austrian Airlines, also maintained its market share of 6 percent, offering flights to Vienna, a key hub for destinations not directly linked to Tirana.

Greece’s flag carrier Aegean Airlines maintained its 3 percent market share, linking Albania to neighboring Greece, the destination of some 500,000 Albanian migrants, but who mostly travel by car to and from Albania.

British Airways also handled around 100,000 passengers from Tirana to London, with a 3 percent market share.

Meanwhile, Hungarian low cost carrier linking Tirana to Budapest and London increased its market share to around 3 percent in 2018 in only one and a half years after launching its Albania operations.

Charter flights linking Poland, Ukraine and Scandinavian destinations to Tirana also handled around 267,000 passengers in 2018, a 55 percent increase compared to 2017 as more tourists visited the country during the summer holidays, says the civil aviation watchdog.

Charter flights increased their market share by 2 percent to 9 percent in Albania’s air transport market in 2018.

 

Record passengers

The Tirana International Airport handled a record of around 3 million passengers in 2018 when the number of passengers rose by 12 percent, in a constant hike since 2005 when the airport has been under private management through a build-own-operate-transfer concession contract.

“In 2018, Tirana International Airport (TIA) served 2,947,172 passengers. Last year, the airlines carrying most passengers to and from Tirana were Blue Panorama (21%), Ernest Airline (12%), Albawings (11%), Alitalia (9%) and Turkish Airlines (6%),” TIA said in a statement.

Currently, 15 airlines fly in to and out of TIA, connecting directly the Albanian capital city with 50 destinations, including more than a dozen Italian airports.

“TIA’s shares have been German, Canadian, and, now, Chinese. But the spirit of the Airport is Albanian, and, in the end, what pulses here every day, in thought and in action, is human values and the willingness to help one another on our journey; and we believe that Albania needs this more than ever,” says a spokesperson for the airport.

 

TIA probe

Few months ago, the Albanian government selected an audit firm to conduct what it calls an ‘independent economic review’ of the concession contract it has with the Tirana International Airport, the country’s sole airport with a de facto monopoly on international flights and whose high charges on carriers are often blamed for Albania having one of the region’s highest ticket prices.

The economic review, the first of its kind since 2005 when the 20-year concession kicked off, comes following frequent concerns that the country’s competition watchdog has expressed in the past four years over the concessionaire’s alleged abuse of its monopoly position in charging high fees that make the operation of low-cost carriers difficult and lead to high costs for Albanian passengers who often choose to fly from neighboring countries offering cheaper flights.

The government’s target is too reduce aircraft handling fees at the airport so that more low-cost flights can enter Albania, an emerging destination where more than 5 million tourists spending around €1.5 billion, have been visiting the country in the past couple of years.

TIA had its exclusive international flight rights lifted in mid-2016 in return for extending its concession term for 2 years until 2027.

Operated by a German-led concessionaire for 13 years until mid-2016 when it was taken over by a Chinese consortium, the Tirana International Airports is one of the most profitable companies in Albania with profit rates of up to 38 percent.

The Albanian government plans to reactivate a north-east Albania airport in Kukes town built a decade ago, and build two new airports south of the country to ease tourist access and reduce ticket prices.

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times February 13, 2019 11:43