SkyTeam alliance member Czech Airlines is to enhance its offering from Košice, the biggest city in eastern Slovakia, with the introduction of a link to Kiev, the capital of Ukraine. The new service, operated by an Airbus A319, will also enable the carrier to boost capacity on its existing link to Košice from its Prague hub, currently flown using ATR turboprop equipment.
The new four times weekly Košice – Kiev service will launch on May 18, 2015 and will operate as an extension of the carrier’s existing Prague – Košice offering. This will mean passengers flying between Prague and Kiev will remain on the aircraft while the 144-seat A319 makes a 30 minute stopover in the Slovakian city to collect and drop off passengers.
“Czech Airlines is bringing two messages to Košice: direct flight connection Košice – Kiev and thanks to the deployment of the Airbus A319 also a faster connection to/from Prague during the selected days of operation,” said Ján Tóth, director for Sales and Marketing, Czech Airlines.
“We see a growth of demand for a direct connection between Košice and Kiev as there already are some business relationships in which we see a growing potential for the air service. We believe that economic situation in Ukraine will improve and we are convinced that the flight connection Košice – Kiev will have positive impact on further business relations between Slovakia and Ukraine,” he added.
After Bratislava, Vienna, Prague and London, Kiev will now be the fifth European Capital city to be served with direct flights from Košice as it develops as a gateway to Eastern Slovakia and enhances opportunities for international cooperation in business and tourism.
According to Renáta Lenártová, vicemayor of Košice and chairman of the board of Košice Tourism, during 2014 more than 55,000 Ukrainian tourists visited Slovakia, a figure that will certainly rise following the introduction of the new scheduled link. This will be the first scheduled link between the two countries in almost a year since Air Onix ended its flights between Bratislava and Kiev’s Zhuliany Airport in June last year.
“Direct air service Košice – Kiev is great news not only because of historical and geographical relationship between Eastern Slovakia and Ukraine, but also because of the opportunities which lie ahead of us. International cooperation is a chance for both countries and I believe that our region will be one of the main drivers of this cooperation,” said Zdenko Trebuľa, president of Košice self-governing region.
Ahead of the opening of the new Kiev service, Czech Airlines currently operates 17 weekly flights to Košice with eleven weekly rotations to Prague and six weekly rotations to Bratislava, the Slovakian capital. Košice International Airport is also linked to Vienna by Austrian Airlines and London by Wizz Air. The latter will open a single aircraft base at the airport in June this year and add flights to Bergamo in Italy and Doncaster Sheffield in the UK.
The growth in air links has seen traffic at the airport grow to 356,750 passengers in 2014, up 50.4 per cent on the previous year and this growth has continued through 2015 with numbers up 15 per cent in the first quarter versus the same period last year to 54,305 passengers. However, the airport´s priority remains to establish a direct regular air service to Germany. “Intensive negotiations are still ongoing,” its head of marketing Juraj Toth confirmed.