European flag carrier, Air France will become the latest network carrier to introduce flights to the Polish city of Krakow, host of this year’s Routes Europe network development forum. The SkyTeam member will introduce a four times weekly link from Paris during the peak summer months of July and August, it revealed this week.
The new route will link Air France’s Charles De Gaulle Airport hub to the Polish city, providing new one-stop connection opportunities to markets across Europe as well as convenient medium- and long-haul connections. The airline will offer flights every Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday between July 4, 2016 and August 28, 2016. This will be flown using 143-seat Airbus A319 equipment with the exception of the Sunday rotation which will utilise a smaller 131-seat A318.
Krakow’s John Paul II International Airport is an excellent example of the changes that have occurred in the Polish aviation market over the last couple of decades. These have provided network connectivity today that is unrecognisable to when the country joined the European Union in 2004 as point-to-point connectivity has helped put the country’s developing regional cities on the network map.
In 2003 when Irish budget carrier, Ryanair first approached airport authorities in Krakow for permission to launch regular international flights to points across Europe they were reluctant to agree a commercial contract with the carrier. Poland was still living in the legacy of years of Communist rule and despite its impending accession to the European Union there remained a reluctance to change from the safe environment that had served the nation well for many years.
At this time the airport was handling a little over 500,000 annual passengers with a very limited network of flights. Fast-forward to today and a more liberal outlook embracing new opportunities, particularly those offered by low-cost carriers, means that the facility has emerged as one of the fastest growing airports across Europe.
Last year, Krakow Airport welcomed a record 4,221,171 passengers, up eleven per cent on the previous year, and it is using this as a platform for further expansion in the year ahead. It has already announced seven new scheduled and four new charter destinations for 2016 and forecasts traffic to exceed 4.5 million for the full calendar year.
While growth from low-cost carriers like Ryanair (now serving more than 30 routes), easyJet, Norwegian, airberlin, Eurowings, Jet2.com and Vueling also have a presence dominated growth at Krakow during the first decade of Poland’s European Union membership, the network carriers are now leading the way.
In the past couple of years, Swiss International Air Lines and British Airways have resurrected flights to Zurich and London, the latter launching a link from Heathrow Airport last year rather than a previous Gatwick Airport service. Air France’s sister carrier, KLM has also introduced a connection to its Amsterdam hub (and will boost frequencies to up to 14 weekly from next month) and fellow SkyTeam member, Alitalia to Rome, while Austrian Airlines, Brussels Airlines, Finnair and Lufthansa all provide connection options via their own hubs.
In addition to the arrival of Air France this summer, Iberia will introduce a twice weekly connection between Krakow and Madrid between June 20, 2016 and September 17, 2016 through its Iberia Express brand, a market that was previously flown by its regional partner Air Nostrum. Other new summer 2016 links include Aegean Airlines to Athens; easyJet to Milan Malpensa Norwegian to Bristol and SAS Scandinavian Airlines to Copenhagen.