Air Albania: Navigating the Balkan skies with Albania’s flagship airline

The Balkan country of Albania is a fledging air market in Southeastern Europe. Air Albania, the country’s flagship airline, is the new face of Albanian aviation globally. Founded in 2018, the carrier is a relative upstart in the industry but holds high promises to take Albania’s airline sector to a new level. It is a proud carrier of the Albanian flag worldwide and a symbol of pride for the nation.

Air Albania consolidates its traffic flow and flight operations from Tirana International Airport Nene Tereza (TIA). TIA is Albania’s biggest and most important international air facility serving Tirana, its metropolitan area, and surrounding regions. As a newbie, Air Albania operates a modest route network spanning thirteen European destinations.

Air Albania profile

Air Albania is the Republic of Albania flag carrier, formed under a public-private partnership between Turkish Airlines and Albanian organizations. The founding partner, Turkish Airlines, controls a 49.1% stake in the airline, whereas the rest 50.8% is publicly traded. Albcontrol-the Albanian national air controller holds roughly 10%, and new-founded MDN Investment takes roughly 41% of shares.

Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama was personally involved in negotiating with Turkish Airlines for a possible partnership in Air Albania’s founding. Later, Turkish Airlines executive director Ilker Ayci confirmed the decision to support the Albanian government in establishing the airline.

As a subsidiary, Air Albania draws on the expertise and experience of its founding partner Turkish Airlines. The Istanbul-based carrier assists the Balkan carrier with technical know-how and supports in offering a wide range of services.

Air Albania is the second largest carrier at Tirana International Airport in terms of market share. It shuttled around five hundred thousand passengers through TIA in 2022, accounting for 10% of the market share. Wizz Air, the Hungarian discount carrier, has the largest presence and accounts for over 50% of total traffic through Tirana.

Air Albania history

The Balkan country lacked a national flag carrier since Albanian Airlines ceased its operations in November 2011. The previous flagship airline disappeared from the aviation landscape when the country’s civil aviation authorities revoked its license in 2011.

Nearly seven years after Albanian Airlines exited, the new national carrier was established on May 16, 2018.

Air Albania commenced operations by operating the maiden flight from Tirana to Istanbul in April 2019. The new flag carrier wet-leased an Airbus A319 aircraft (registered ZA-BEL) from Turkish Airlines to take to the skies.

 Shortly, the airline added routes to Milan, Rome, and Bologna in September 2019. From its hub at Tirana International, the carrier performed three consecutive scheduled rotations on these routes. It utilized the Turkish Airlines aircraft to launch routes to the EU as it hadn’t yet received the EASA license.

The state-owned flag carrier secured European Union Aviation Safety Administration (EASA)’s Third Country Operator (TCO) certification on May 8, 2020. Obtaining European TCO authorization opened doors for Air Albania to launch in-house operations in the EU bloc.

On September 9, 2022, the National Business Center revoked Air Albania’s business license after the carrier failed to register its beneficial owners by the deadline. The national flagship airline reactivated its license five days after paying the fine and registering data for beneficial owners.

Air Albania destinations: Where does Air Albania fly?

Albania’s flag-bearing airline, Air Albania, operates scheduled services to 13 European destinations. It is predominantly an international airline since international operations make up the entirety of its route. It flies a fully overseas route network and has no domestic connections.

 Passengers booking flights with Air Albania can fly directly from Tirana to the following European getaway destinations:

  • Verona, Rome, Pisa, Milan, Bologna, and Bergamo in Italy
  • Istanbul in Turkey
  • London Stansted in the UK and
  • Dusseldorf in Germany

All cities as mentioned above are regular destinations served by Air Albania. Besides, the Tirana-based carrier also provides seasonal flights to Basel in northwestern Switzerland and Antalya and Bodrum in Turkey.

  • Italy-Air Albania’s most-served country

Regarding no. of destinations, Italy is the most-served country in Air Albania’s modest route network. The Tirana-based carrier offers air services to 6 Italian destinations: Bologna, Bergamo, Verona, Rome, Pisa, and Milan.

 The flight routes between Italy and Albania comprise a hotly competitive and lucrative carrier aviation market. More than 2 million passengers fly between Italy and Tirana annually, making Italy the no. 1 destination for Albanians.

From Tirana, Milan is the busiest Italian route with over 300 thousand annual passengers. It is followed by Rome, Bergamo, Bologna, and Pisa with 0.259 million, 0.253 million, 0.209 million, and 0.207 annual passengers, respectively.

The increased travel demand between Italy and Albania presents a growth opportunity for Air Albania. The upstart Albanian carrier seeks to firmly establish itself in this competitive and price-sensitive market by offering excellent customer service and increased flight choices.

  • Air Albania flights to Istanbul

Istanbul, the largest city in Turkey, is the first destination of Air Albanian. The Balkan carrier currently operates at least 3 daily flights between Tirana and Istanbul. Since Tirana-Istanbul is a short-haul route, the flight duration is just 01 hours 40 minutes (one-way).

Istanbul Airport is the main base of Air Albania’s co-founder Turkish Airlines. It is the busiest European airport and features flights to major destinations worldwide.

Istanbul is the fifth-busiest route at Tirana Airport, with more than two hundred thousand passengers annually. Air Albania competes directly with Turkish low-cost Pegasus Airlines on the Tirona-Istanbul route.

Besides Istanbul, Air Albania flies seasonally to Bodrum and Antalya in Turkey. The carrier added seasonal flights to Antalya and Bodrum in July 2022 and continued the service until September.

  • London flights

Tirana-based Air Albania serves the UK capital via London Stansted Airport (STN). It operates six weekly flights between Tirana and London Stansted (except on Saturdays). It follows different schedules while flying from TEL to STN.

For example, on Sunday, flight ZB 6001 leaves TIA at 12:35 and touches down at STN at 14:35. Likewise, the Monday schedule has flight departure from TIA at 13:30 and arrival at STN at 15:30 local time. The difference in flight schedule gives passengers the choice to book the flight that suits their timetable.

Air Albania customers flying from Tirana’s capital can reach London Stansted in 3 hours.

Regarding passenger volume, London is the busiest route at Tirana Airport. More than 4.5 hundred thousand passengers fly between London and Tirana every year. Carriers like Albawings, British Airways, easyJet, Wizz Air, British Airways, and Air Albania serve the London-Tirana route. Albanian carriers, i.e., Albawings and Air Albania, duke London out at STN. Other carriers ferry their Tirana-bound customers from London Heathrow, Gatwick, and Luton airports.

  • Flights from Kukes International Airport.

Besides its Tirona hub, the carrier offers seasonal flights from Kukes International Airport. The newly-opened Kukes Airport lies 3.5km south of Kukes City and is an alternative to Tirana Airport. From Kukes, Air Albania customers can connect directly to Basel/Mulhouse. Basel Mulhouse Airport is 3.5 km northwest of Basel and serves the tripoint of France, Germany, and Switzerland.

The national airline launched air services between Kukes and EuroAirport Basel Mulhouse on March 29, 2022.

Fleet of Air Albania

The in-house fleet of Air Albania consists of three Airbus aircraft. The Balkan carrier currently operates 1 Airbus A319-100 and 2 Airbus A320-200 aircraft.

The Airbus A319-100 takes its name ‘Lasgushi’ from the founder of Albania’s literary heritage Lasugh Poradeci. The other two Airbus A320-200s, i.e., ‘Migjeni’ and ‘Fishta,’ are named to recognize notable Albanian personalities Millosh Gjergj Nikolla and Naim Frasheri, respectively.

Lasgushi is a shortened-fuselage variant of the Airbus A320 with a seating capacity of 8 business and 124 economy class passengers. The stretched siblings, i.e., Migjeni and Fishta, can accommodate 180 passengers each. Airbus A320-200s feature a dual-class configuration and can seat eight premium (business) and 172 economy-class customers.

It inducted the A319-100 on lease from its parent company Turkish Airlines, in 2019. Similarly, it procured two 180-seater A320-200 jets on long-term lease from GA Telesis in the first quarter of 2023. The two new A320s are a promising fit for Air Albania and support the flag carrier’s planned network growth.

Air Albania’s competitor at home base

At its home front, Air Albania competes with privately-owned Albawings. The low-cost carrier has also set up its hub and headquarters at Tirona International Airport alongside Air Albania. Date-wise, Albawings is three years senior to Air Albania, having founded in February 2015. The budget carrier secured its TCO certificate in 2019 and currently operates flights to no. of destinations in Italy. It has a sizeable Italian presence with scheduled services to Ancona, Bari, Bergamo, Bologna, Firenze, Genoa, Milan, Perugia, Pisa, Venice, and Verona. Moreover, Albawings also spreads its wings seasonally to London Stansted Airport, UK.

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