Georgian Airways announced direct flights from their hub in Tbilisi to Vilnius. Flights are scheduled to start on April 2, 2019.
Company plans 3 weekly flights, operating one of their Embraer 190. Flight will take 3 hours and will operate on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays evenings: 19:00 departure from Tbilisi and 22:00 departure from Vilnius.
Announcement of this new route is messy. First, I noticed that Georgian Airways is accepting bookings on this route in beggining of September.Then, at the very end of October flight was bookable on Georgian Airways website. Still, there is no official announcement neither from airline or airports. Nevertheless, Lithuanian Airports (company operating 3 airports in Lithuania) published information they awarded Georgian Airways for 200 000 EUR cash incentive from their de minimisprogram.
Georgian Airways isde factonational airline of Georgia. Company operates 8 aircraft, including 2 Boeing 737-700s, one CRJ200 one Bombardier in VIP configuration and their bare-bone fleet are Embraers – 3 E190s and 1 E195. „Georgian Airways“ started in 1994 and operates mainly from Tbilisi International Airport with some operation from Batumi too.
Competition on the route to be indirect. Wizz Air flies 2 times a week from Vilnius to Kutaisi – low cost airport in North of Georgia. airBaltic flies red-eyeflights from Riga to Tbilisi: 2-3 flights per week in winter and 4-6 weekly flights in summer. Georgian Airways code-share on this route. In spring 2018, Wizz Air also started flying between Riga to Kutaisi.
I think, its schedule is good for Tbilisi to Vilnius leg, but not so good for Vilnius to Tbilisi: flight to land in Georgian capital at 2AM. This is similar to many flights arriving to Georgia during the night from Europe, but this will not help them with competition from Wizz Air. Wizz Air flies two weekly flights from Vilnius to Tbilisi on morning schedule: I think, this is better for tourist traffic. Also, Wizz Air operates on Mondays and Fridays – also, I believe this is better both for short breaks or week-length trips. So, even Georgian Airways plans to operate on higher frequency than Wizz Air, its debatable which airline offers more convenient schedules.
But the most difficult part of competition may be cost of operation. Wizz Air flies Vilnius to Kutaisi with 230-seater Airbus 321: this is by far lowest seat cost aircraft on such 3 hours length route. Georgian Airways plan to fly 97-seater Embraer 190. Even if I think, this is the most comfortable short haul aircraft, this will be extremely difficult to compete on prices – Georgian Airways needs to get high premium from passengers, who prefer flying to/from capital airport, better schedule and more comfortable service.
RDC Aviation posted few weeks ago most profitable LCC markets from Baltics. Surprisingly, Lithuanian to Georgia takes 9th place in Top10. Actually, there is only one operator in this market: Wizz Air flies route from Vilnius to Kutaisi 2 times per week. As per analysis, airline makes more than 1 million EUR profit per year, with margin >30%. So there is no surprise Georgian Airways goes for part of this cake.
I remember, I was personally involved in attracting Georgian Airways to Vilnius in 2010-2012: this was one of the most promising markets from Lithuania on the east side of the world. Still, when „Wizz Air“ announced their route from Vilnius to Kutaisi in spring 2014, I believe, „Georgian Airways“ was pushed back with their plans which will materialise next year. Lithuanian and Georgia has strong cultural and political ties.
There are no flights between Georgia and Estonia. „Estonian Air“ operated flights for very short time back in 2012.