Low-cost carriers flying high in Southeast Europe

Low-cost carriers flying high in Southeast Europe None

SOFIA, March 21 (SeeNews) – The recent boom of low-cost carriers (LCCs) across Southeast Europe (SEE), particularly in Romania and Bulgaria, has created a new market which complements legacy airlines, a SeeNews industry report shows.

Contrary to passengers using traditional airlines, the typical LCC customers are driven by the urge to explore, and their decision to book a ticket is impulsive, often prompted by the availability of lucrative offers rather than the attractiveness of a given destination, according to the report published on Tuesday.

LCCs also encourage frequent visits to relatives abroad. The airlines’ policy for launching new routes is determined mostly by the size of SEE expat communities in Western Europe, the report shows. For example, Italy is the leading outgoing destination for Romanians, whereas the bulk of passengers from Bulgaria travel to Germany, the UK, Italy and Spain. Germany is the biggest feeder market for Serbia.

Rising low-cost passenger numbers, especially in Romania and Bulgaria, are closely linked to the double-digit growth of international tourists to both countries in 2016. According to Bulgarian finance ministry data, more than 56% of foreign tourists who visited the country last year arrived by low-cost flights. Low-cost air lines have made more accessible both visits to the Black Sea and Adriatic coastal resorts and weekend city-breaks.

However, the rise in LCC passenger numbers in SEE rarely comes at the expense of national carriers, according to the report. Even though the flag carriers are losing market share, the number of passengers they carry either remains stable, like in the case of Romania's TAROM, or the decline is not as pronounced as the increase registered by the LCCs, as with Bulgaria Air.

A reason for the recent expansion of LCCs in Romania and Bulgaria is the two countries’ EU membership, which allows for free movement of people.

Unlike Bulgaria and Romania, however, the flag carriers of Serbia and Croatia stay ahead of the LCCs in terms of passenger numbers, according to the report.

According to findings of Sofia-based media analysts Perceptica quoted in the report, Ryanair and Wizz Air were the most popular carriers in terms of social media coverage of the three leading LCCs in Bulgaria, Serbia and Croatia in the June 2016 – February 2017 period.

Wizz Air led in Bulgaria, while Ryanair was the most frequently mentioned LCC in Serbia and Croatia. EasyJet’s share was significant only in Croatia, where the company ranked second. While social media users praised the three air carriers' pricing and promotion policies, especially those of Ryanair, they heavily criticised the airlines' luggage policy and customer service.

To view the full report, click here.


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