airBaltic Makes Istanbul Airport Switch

Latvian national carrier airBaltic is continuing its network analysis and just a week after revealing plans to move its flights to the Italian city back to Malpensa Airport from Linate, the airline has announced it will also complete an airport switch in Istanbul from the end of this month.  From the start of the Summer 2013 schedule on March 31, 2013, the airline will moves its flights from Riga from Ataturk to Sabiha Gökçen Airport.

airBaltic first launched flights between Riga and Istanbul in March 2005, initially on a four times weekly basis using a Boeing 737-500, and has subsequently introduced additional rotations and larger equipment in the form of 737-300s as demand has increased.  Due to the short notice of its airport switch, airBaltic is offering all passengers arriving on its flights at Sabiha Gökçen during the first month of operations a complimentary shuttle bus link to Istanbul’s Taksim Square. 

“By swapping to Sabiha Gökçen airport, we can improve our schedule and connections via Riga for the Baltics, Scandinavia, Russia and the CIS.  Furthermore, the move also helps to reduce travel time for our customers between central Istanbul and the airport,” said Michael Grimme, chief operating officer, airBaltic.

In the past year an estimated 40,000 bi-directional O&D passengers travelled between Riga and Istanbul, a link on which airBaltic competes directly with Turkish Airlines.  In the table below we look at O&D demand between Riga and Istanbul and how it has changed since 2006.  The analysis shows how airBaltic’s position in the market has become pressured following the arrival of Turkish Airlines (THY) on the route.  From holding a 72.0 per cent share of the point-to-point traffic on the route in 2006, airBaltic held just a 35.3 per cent share last year. 

Traffic on this route peaked in 2009 when both airBaltic and THY pushed for market dominance, but the Latvian carrier has found it hard to compete with its larger rival.  The move from Ataturk to Sabiha Gökçen, which is not directly linked to Riga, will enable both carriers to offer complementary services and potentially stimulate further demand due to the different catchments and passenger demographics of the Istanbul airports.

ESTIMATED O&D DEMAND BETWEEN RIGA AND ISTANBUL (annual bi-directional O&D passengers)

Year

Estimated Passengers

% Change

airBaltic Demand

Marketshare

2006

23,219

-

16,729

72.0 %

2007

29,024

25.0 %

17,826

61.4 %

2008

40,376

39.1 %

26,324

65.2 %

2009

50,463

25.0 %

31,761

62.9 %

2010

40,938

(-18.9) %

21,062

51.4 %

2011

39,652

(-3.1) %

17,602

44.4 %

2012

39,707

0.1

14,028

35.3 %


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