Lithuanian leisure charter carrier Small Planet Airlines has announced expansion of its route network in Asia.
Besides Cambodia, where the airline has been operating for some time now, it has added two new countries, Saudi Arabia and India.
The carrier explains that the move comes as a solution to seasonality issue.
In the summer season, we perform most of our flights in Europe.
However, in the winter we face a challenging question of how to utilize all the fleet of 21 aircraft. Asia came as the best answer because it has a reverse seasonality and its holiday market is growing rapidly, Vytautas Kaikaris, CEO of the Small Planet Group explained.
According to him, several aircraft will be based in Asia. Today, the group runs two affiliate offices in Cambodia - in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap. The later also serves as the airline's base airport in the country. In the winter of 2016 two of the carrier's Airbus A320s are based here.
In cooperation with its local partners Sky Angkor and Cambodia Angkor Air, Small Planet operates domestic flights in Cambodia. It also offers flights to China, South Korea and Vietnam.
Two more A320s have been dispatched to the carrier's Indian base in Mumbai to operate domestic flights in cooperation with the low-cost carrier Go Air.
The third Asian base is Saudi Arabian city Jeddah. Two Airbus A321s and an A320 fly local routes to Jeddah, Ha’il, Riyadh, and Dammam. The airline's partner in the country is Nesma Airlines.
As for the European market, Canary Islands, Dubai, Egypt, and skiing resorts remain among the Small Planet Airlines' main winter destinations.
Before the end of the year Small Planet plans to open its 12th base in Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport.
Currently, Small Planet Airlines operates twenty-one aircraft under their AOCs: seventeen 180-seat Airbus A320s and four 220-seat Airbus A321 aircraft. The group operates out of 11 bases and serves more than 45 leisure destinations.
Small Planet Airlines carried 1.8 million people. Its revenue grew to 182 million euro, profit amounted to 19.2 million euro.
Airports in Lithuania posted record cumulative traffic of 4.3 million passengers in 2016. This is 13% more than a year ago.
The number of flights through the country's airports grew 5% to 52,000 movements, according to data published by Vilnius International Airports, the company that manages airports in Vilnius, Kaunas and Palanga.
Traffic though Vilnius airport in the country’s capital grew 14% to 3.8 million passengers, the number of flights increased by 5%. The airport served flights to the total of 62 destinations. Notably, European low-cost carrier Ryanair opened a base in Vilnius last October.
Airport in Palanga, on the Baltic Sea shore, demonstrated the highest growth rate - up 60% from the previous year to 233,000 passengers.
The airport doubled the number of destinations in its route network, adding such points as Kyiv, Luton and Stansted in London, Minsk and Warsaw. The number of aircraft movements grew 17%.
Traffic through airport in Kaunas, Lithuania’s second largest city, remained roughly level with the previous year, 741,000 passengers, although the number of flights increased by 2%, including to new destinations such as Stavanger, Bergen, Alesund in Norway and Eindhoven in the Netherlands.
Vilnius International Airports emphasized that the Lithuanian aviation companies' accomplishments are due to help from the Route Development Foundation, which facilitated launching flights to new destinations and increasing frequencies.
The Foundation raised 800,000 euro and allocated subsidies to those airlines that opted to use help, among them Belavia, Adria Airways, Ukraine International Airlines, Ryanair and Turkish Airlines.
The foundation's activity is intended to continue throughout 2017, so Lithuanian airports will keep adding destinations and increasing frequencies. The renewed offer for the airlines will be issued before the end of this month, after which the organization will be open to applications from airlines.
Kaunas will be responsible for handling most flights instead of Vilnius in the coming summer, when the latter is scheduled to close for reconstruction.
The works would take up to 35 day. The Kaunas airport is currently rebuilding its passenger terminal to handle the growing traffic, and the process will take five months.