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Ready for the EU, ready for low fares

Mobility & Transport

As air travel in Western Europe has become as easy and cheap as in the US, Central Europe couldn’t help feeling left behind. Despite booming economies, former communist states such as Hungary, Slovakia, Poland, and Czech Republic had been mostly ignored by low cost carriers like Ryanair and easyJet, who chose to focus on more established markets in the West first. But things are changing fast (looming ratification of the newcomers’ EU membership didn’t hurt): — EasyJet is now flying to Prague from Stansted, Bristol, East Midlands and Newcastle. — As of 11 July 2003, Slovakian carrier Sky Europe flies from London Stansted to Bratislave three times a week, at bottom rates. Shuttle buses link the airport to nearby Brno and Vienna (Austria). Sky Europe also plans to launch Stansted flights to Budapest later in the year. — Scandinavian SAS-owned Snowflake flies between Stockholm and Budapest on a daily basis. — Germany’s low-cost carrier Germanwings, an affiliate of Lufthansa AG, recently launched a daily service between Cologne and Budapest. — The launch of Hungary’s first national low-cost airline, Arc Air, is said to be in a preparatory phase. — Last but not least, lower-than-low fares carrier Ryanair is reported to be eyeing underused regional Hungarian airports to add to its destinations in 2004. Sármellék and Debrecen airports, both near tourist destinations like Lake Balaton, appear to be frontrunners. (Sources: Springspotters.com, Guardian, Budapester.hu.)

Opportunities

PLENTY! Citizens in Central Europe want to travel on the cheap like their counterparts in the EU. And EU citizens are more than ready to embark on weekend trips and summer holidays in ‘Mittel Europa’. Moreover, many ‘forgotten’ regions in Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia could profit from low cost carriers breathing life back into small (often military) airports, whether it’s for tourism or trade. Indications of what might be in store for Central Europe: house prices in the Limousin region soared 30-40% after Buzz, now a Ryanair company, started flying to Limoges (source: FT, 23 February 2003). And when Ryanair introduced flights from London’s Stansted airport to Pisa in Italy at cut-rate fares, the nearby region of Lucca instantly attracted many second home buyers from the UK). If developments in the EU are anything to go by, Central Europe could be in for a fast ride on the low fare express.

Website: prod.springwise.pro.pugpig.com/ready_for_the_eu_ready_for_low/

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