9 top spotting airports to reach by budget airline

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Asia, Caribbean, Dubai, Eastern Europe, Middle East, Miscellaneous Spotting, Netherlands, North America, Poland, Russia, Singapore, Sint Maarten, Spain, USA, Western Europe | Posted on 21-11-2014

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Spotting isn’t the cheapest hobby, especially if you want to do a lot of it. So I thought I’d look at a few of the best spotting airports that are easily accessible by budget airlines. Hopefully it’ll give you some inspiration for your next trips!

 

Palma de Mallorca, Spain

Palma-Vueling

By Peter Bakema [GFDL 1.2], via Wikimedia Commons

Palma is one of the busiest holiday airports in Europe, particularly during the summer months. Airlines ferry holidaymakers in droves from all over northern Europe, so you’ll see charter and low-cost airlines as well as Spanish regional aircraft. Palma is a big base for Air Berlin, and plenty of other budget airlines also fly there year-round, including easyJet, Ryanair and Vueling.

 

Amsterdam Schiphol, Netherlands

Amsterdam easyJet

By Aero Icarus from Zürich, Switzerland [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Although it is one of Europe’s busiest and largest airports, and is also a stronghold of national airline KLM, Schiphol is surprisingly easy to get to by budget airline. easyJet links many destinations across Europe, whilst Flybe and Jet2 link a number of additional points in the UK.

 

Singapore Changi

Photo by Calvin Teo

Photo by Calvin Teo

A major Asian powerhouse and the hub of the large Singapore Airlines. Changi is also on the route map of many low cost and budget airlines, including home-based Jetstar Asia, Tigerair and Valuair, plus regional carriers Air Asia and Lion Air. Long haul low-cost flights are provided by Jetstar and Scoot to destinations across Asia and Australia.

 

Dubai International, UAE

Flydubai fleet

You may think of Emirates when you think of Dubai, but the second largest carrier at the Middle East hub is Flydubai, a budget airline serving destinations across Africa, the Middle East, Indian subcontinent They even fly into Europe. It makes a more affordable way to reach the airport for some spotting.

 

Atlanta Hartsfield International, GA

Southwest Airlines Heart Livery

Atlanta was known as the busiest airport in the world for many years, largely because of the huge presence of Delta Air Lines reaching across the globe and to many points across the United States. However, the airport’s second largest carrier is Southwest Airlines following its acquisition of Airtran. This means you can get to Atlanta from destinations across America at great prices.

 

Dallas Ft Worth, TX

Spirit Airlines

Another US airport which is dominated by a home based legacy carrier – in this case American Airlines – you may be surprised to find that you have good budget options that don’t require a trip to nearby Love Field. Spirit Airlines recently announced a number of new routes from Dallas to regional and leisure destinations to add to its existing network from the airport.

 

Warsaw Chopin, Poland

Wizz Air

The capital of Poland is a major hub for budget carrier Wizz Air which fights bitterly with full service national carrier LOT. You can also reach Warsaw via carriers Norwegian, Air Berlin, Germanwings and Vueling.

 

Moscow Domodedovo, Russia

By Milad A380 (Own work) [CC-BY-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Milad A380 (Own work) [CC-BY-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

For years it was only possible to reach Moscow via traditional full service airlines, or one of Aeroflot’s classic Soviet airliners. However, recent agreements have led to a number of low cost airlines from outside Russia offering flights to Domodedovo. Most significant perhaps is easyJet, which flies from two points in the UK. Other budget airlines flying to Moscow include Air Berlin, Germania, Niki, Meridiana fly, Vueling and Air Arabia.

 

St Maarten, Caribbean

St Maarten Jetblue

A spotters paradise which is on the bucket list of many who like to photograph airliners at close quarters. But it’s not necessary to spend mega bucks getting there with big airlines, particularly from North America, since budget airlines such as Jetblue, Sun Country and Westjet fly regularly to the island.

McDonnell Douglas MD-11 farewell

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Miscellaneous Spotting, Netherlands, Western Europe | Posted on 10-11-2014

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(c) KLM

(c) KLM

The final commercial passenger flight of the McDonnell Douglas MD-11 took place on 26th October when KLM flew PH-KCE from Montreal to Amsterdam Schiphol.

On 11th November the airline will formally retire the type by performing three special flights for enthusiasts to get a last chance to experience the aircraft before its retirement. KLMs aircraft are all destined to be parted out and scrapped, with a number of the fleet already falling to this fate.

 

History of the MD-11

The MD-11 came about as McDonnell Douglas sought to develop a replacement for its iconic DC-10 wide-body airliner.

First flown in 1970, the DC-10 had a chequered start with a number of high-profile crashes. However, it would go on to become a major player in the long-haul and high-density short-haul routes of many of the world’s major airlines. Key operators included American Airlines, Japan Airlines, Northwest Airlines and United Airlines.

As early as 1976 a replacement had been discussed. The DC-10 flew in three different variants (the -10, -30 and -40), but the MD-11 would become a completely revised aircraft aimed at recapturing the long-haul market with its low operating costs and attractive range.

Seeing the opportunity, Alitalia, British Caledonian, Dragonair, FedEx Express, Finnair, Korean Air, SAS, Swissair, Thai Airways International, and VARIG all made early commitments for the aircraft and it was formally launched in December 1986.

The first flight of the MD-11 took place on 10th January 1990 at Long Beach, CA, after a number of delays. Following a period of testing and certification, the first aircraft was delivered to launch customer Finnair on 7th December 1990. The first commercial flight of the MD-11 took place on 20th December from Helsinki to Tenerife South.

American Airlines and Delta Air Lines were early customers for the MD-11 in the United States. Delta was the first in the country to operate the type.

The MD-11, like the DC-10, is a three-engined, wide-body aircraft. Engines are located one under each wing, with a third mounted at the base of the tail. It offered a modern glass cockpit, eliminating the Flight Engineer position from the DC-10. Passenger capacity was typically 270 in a mixed-class layout, or over 300 in all-Economy seating. One identifying difference from the DC-10 is the addition of winglets on each wingtip.

 

Disappointing Performance

Fairly early in its operational career it became apparent that the MD-11 was not living up to the promised performance statistics – particularly in terms of its range. At full payloads, the aircraft was only managing a range of around 6,500 miles, instead of the promised 7,000. This caused a number of airlines to complain or cancel orders, including Singapore Airlines.

Although modifications were completed by 1995 to restore the range of the aircraft, it had already suffered irreparable negative publicity and a lack of confidence from airlines who were starting to look at new offerings from Airbus and Boeing.

 

By Montague Smith [GFDL 1.2 or GFDL 1.2], via Wikimedia Commons

Freighter Renaissance

Despite Boeing purchasing McDonnell Douglas in 1997, it was decided to keep the MD-11 in production but only as freighter as by this time it had no interest from airlines for the passenger variant (it wanted to focus on its 767 and 777 models anyway).

The MD-11 was proving to be quite a success as a freighter aircraft. FedEx Express had started the ball rolling by ordering a number of aircraft as a natural continuation of its sizeable DC-10 fleet. Now, a programme of modifying passenger versions into freighters was taking place.

American Airlines, who were unhappy with their aircraft, eventually sold all of them to FedEx for conversion into freighters. It was a similar story for a number of other airlines, including Alitalia, Finnair and Delta who all retired their MD-11s relatively early and saw them turned into cargo-carrying aircraft. UPS Airlines would also become a significant operator of the MD-11.

The final aircraft of the 200 MD-11s to be built were destined for Lufthansa Cargo as dedicated freighter variants. The last MD-11 was delivered in February 2001.

 

By Leviescobar [CC-BY-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Leviescobar [CC-BY-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Operators

The following airline operated the MD-11

  • Aer Lingus (leased)
  • Aeroflot Cargo
  • Air Namibia
  • Alitalia
  • American Airlines
  • AV Cargo Airlines
  • Avianca (leased)
  • Avient
  • Cargoitalia
  • Centurion Air Cargo
  • China Airlines
  • China Cargo Airlines
  • China Eastern Airline
  • Cielos Airlines
  • City Bird
  • Delta Air Lines
  • El Al (leased)
  • Ethiopian Airlines Cargo
  • Etihad Airways (leased)
  • EVA Air
  • FedEx Express
  • Finnair
  • Garuda Indonesia
  • Gemini Air Cargo
  • Ghana Airways
  • Japan Airlines
  • KLM
  • Korean Air
  • LTU International
  • Lufthansa Cargo
  • MASkargo
  • Malaysia Airlines
  • Martinair
  • Mid East Jet
  • Monarch Airlines
  • Nordic Global Airlines
  • Philippine Airlines
  • SABENA
  • Saudia
  • Shanghai Airlines Cargo
  • Star Airlines
  • Swissair / Swiss International Airlines
  • TAM
  • Tradewinds / SkyLease Cargo
  • Thai Airways International
  • Trans Aer
  • Transmile Air Services
  • UPS Airlines
  • USAfrica Airways (leased)
  • VARIG
  • VASP
  • Western Global Airlines
  • World Airways

Of those operators, only those highlighted in bold are still operating the aircraft today.

KLM were the last to fly passengers on the MD-11. However, World Airways flew passengers on their aircraft until the airline went out of business in early 2014.

At the end of this article you can download a free list of all active MD-11s, including those stored but still in one piece.

MD-11 Saudia

By Biggerben [CC-BY-SA-3.0 or CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Where to see MD-11s today

As already mentioned, the only airlines still flying MD-11s are cargo operators now that KLM have retired their passenger examples.

The principal operators today are FedEx Express and UPS Airlines.

FedEx’s main base, and the main hub of MD-11 operations, is Memphis Airport in Tennessee. Other bases which its MD-11s stage through include Paris Charle de Gaulle, Toronto Pearson, Guangzhou, and Osaka Kansai.

UPS’s principal hub is Louisville International Airport in Kentucky. It also has significant bases such as Cologne/Bonn, Hong Kong and Shanghai Pudong.

Lufthansa Cargo flies its MD-11s from its Frankfurt Main hub, with most passing through over a 2-3 day period.

Martinair’s cargo operation keeps Amsterdam Schiphol alive as a MD-11 base, whilst Nordic Global Airlines has also meant Helsinki retains regular flights after Finnair retired its aircraft.

Other airports you’ll see regular MD-11s at include Addis Ababa, Anchorage Ted StevensBogota, Liege, Ostend and Miami International.

 

Incidents

Despite only 200 airframes being built, the MD-11 has suffered a disproportionate number of accidents in its short life.

Pilots often commented on the unusual landing characteristics of the MD-11, particularly during crosswind conditions, and a number of examples have been involved in landing accidents resulting in hull losses and, in some cases, loss of life. The following accidents have occurred:

  • 31st July 1997, FedEx N611FE crashed on landing at New York Newark airport
  • 2nd September 1998, Swissair HB-IWF crashed into sea near Halifax, Nova Scotia, following in-flight fire.
  • 15th April 1999, Korean Air Cargo HL7373 crashed after takeoff from Shanghai Hongqiao airport.
  • 22nd August 1999, Mandarin Airlines B-150 crashed on landing at Hong Kong Chep Lap Kok during a typhoon.
  • 17th October 1999, FedEx N581FE crashed on landing at Subic Bay airport in the Philippines.
  • 23rd March 2009, FedEx N526FE crashed on landing at Tokyo Narita during windy conditions.
  • 28th November 2009, Avient Z-BAV crashed on takeoff from Shanghai Pudong airport.
  • 27th July 2010, Lufthansa Cargo D-ALCQ crashed on landing at Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
By Lasse Fuss [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Lasse Fuss [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

 

Preservation

The MD-11 is now in its twilight years, but as yet there has been no serious moves to preserve any examples in a museum or aircraft collection. Some would say it is too early to propose this, given the type is still fairly active with many cargo airlines and has a number of years’ active service left in it; it is also only 24 years old and hardly a strong candidate for a historical item. Maybe you disagree (leave a comment below).

However, given the type’s passing from commercial passenger services and the strong feeling amongst the aviation enthusiast community for this aircraft (often in combination with its DC-10 and Douglas heritage), a number of people have been asking for one of KLM’s examples to be preserved. A Facebook group was formed to campaign for the move, and it was hoped an example would be sent to the Aviodrome museum at Lelystad, near Amsterdam (which also holds former KLM Boeing 747, Fokker 100, F27, DC-2, DC-3 and Lockheed Constellation). However, costs and the potential income from spare parts have prohibited this from becoming a reality.

 

For me, the MD-11 was one of those underdog airliners, like the Trident and BAe ATP, which set out to make a difference and had all the right credentials to make it big. In the case of the MD-11 it was set to take what the DC-10 did well and do it better, which should have appealed to the many customers who had flown the predecessor. But early problems in performance and the increasing number of twin-engine long-haul airliners emerging at the same time meant it was no longer as attractive when it became essential for airlines to save money wherever possible.

I personally only flew the MD-11 twice: once with American Airlines from New York JFK to Heathrow in 1995, and once with KLM from San Francisco to Amsterdam in 2007. I found it to be a great aircraft, which felt modern but still harked back to the classic days when planes looked like planes. For me, it will be sadly missed but I’m glad it will live on for a few years yet as a cargo workhorse.

To accompany this article I’ve produced a list of the MD-11s that are still flying. To get hold of a free download copy, all you have to do is sign up to receive updates from this blog by e-mail (you’ll get all the latest news and articles!). Plus, every time I update the active MD-11 list I’ll send you an update for free!

 

KLM MD-11 retirement flights announced

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Airline News, Miscellaneous Spotting, Netherlands, Spotting News, Western Europe | Posted on 15-09-2014

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KLM MD-11

KLM has announced a group of farewell flights for enthusiasts on its McDonnell Douglas MD-11 aircraft.

The airline is the last to operate the tri-holer on passenger flights and will retire it by the end of the year. The fleet has been slowly reduced over the past year, with aircraft being sent to desert storage locations for part-out.

Many enthusiasts have been calling on the airline to offer a farewell flight as a way of saying goodbye to the MD-11; for many it will be the last chance to get a flight on board it.

KLM will fly three one-hour enthusiast flights from Amsterdam Schiphol on 11 November 2014, with all passengers receiving a commemorative book as part of their ticket cost.

Tickets go on sale from 16 September, at 11:11am, priced at 111 Euros. EDIT: You can buy tickets now from this link: https://md11farewellflight.klm.com/en_us/

 

KLM modifies livery

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Airline News, Miscellaneous Spotting, Netherlands, Western Europe | Posted on 30-04-2014

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KLM modified livery

KLM has unveiled a modified livery with the arrival of its latest Embraer 190 aircraft, PH-EXD.

Although not a major departure from its existing livery, the new scheme adds a little flair and new design to the forward part of the fuselage.

The latest Embraer 190 is part of KLM’s ongoing fleet-renewal programme. The replacement of seven Fokker 70s with six new Embraers brings the total fleet in 2014 to 28 Embraer 190 and 19 Fokker 70 aircraft.

Belavia announces Embraer 195 routes

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Airline News, Airport News, Belarus, Czech Republic, Eastern Europe, Netherlands, Russia, Western Europe | Posted on 02-04-2014

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This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

Belavia EMB175, (c) Magic Aviation.

Belavia will introduce the Embraer 195 aircraft in May, alongside its existing EMB 175, CRJ, and Boeing 737 aircraft.

The airline has announced that the 195 will operate on the following routes from 6 May:

Minsk – Amsterdam (from 16 May)
Minsk – Batumi (from July)
Minsk – Moscow Domodedovo
Minsk – Prague
Minsk – St Petersburg

 

Where to still see DC-10s

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Bolivia, Canada, Netherlands, North America, South America, USA, Western Europe | Posted on 21-02-2014

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This month sees the final passenger flights to be operated by a Douglas DC-10, with Biman Bangladesh operating a number of enthusiast flights from Birmingham, UK, ahead of the retirement of their last example.

The DC-10 first flew in August 1970, and despite a few early setbacks including some notable crashes, it went on to be a very successful airliner used both for long and medium haul flying.

In recent years the number of operators has been dwindling, and with Biman retiring their last example it leaves only cargo and military operators operating the type. So where can you still see the DC-10? Here’s a handy list.

 

FedEx DC-10 at San Jose (c) Dylan Ashe. Creative Commons

FedEx DC-10 at San Jose (c) Dylan Ashe. Creative Commons

FedEx Express
Along with the US Air Force, FedEx are the largest operator of DC-10s today. With around 60 in service at the time of writing, they have all been converted to MD-10 configuration, which converts them to a two-man, glass cockpit to match their more modern MD-11 fleet. FedEx’s main hub is at Memphis, TN, and you can see their MD-10s flying many domestic and trans-continental freight routes. However, the airline is retiring its fleet at an alarming pace as it introduces more fuel efficient aircraft.

 

USAF KC-10

USAF KC-10

US Air Force
Also with around 60 DC-10s in service at the time of writing, the US Air Force uses the military KC-10A derivative. These are used as refuelling tankers and transport aircraft, supporting the air force in conflicts and war zones around the world. They are primarily based at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, NJ, and Travis AFB, CA. The US Air Force initially said the KC-10 would operate until 2043, but it is thought the fleet will be retired much earlier than that as part of cost cutting measures.

 

Royal Netherlands Air Force KDC-10 (c) Sebastian Barheier. Creative Commons

Royal Netherlands Air Force KDC-10 (c) Sebastian Barheier. Creative Commons

Royal Netherlands Air Force
Continuing with the military variant, the RNAF owns three KDC-10 tanker/transport aircraft, which are based at Eindhoven Airport in support of peacekeeping operations around the world.

 

TAB Cargo DC-10

TAB Cargo DC-10

TAB Cargo
This Bolivian cargo operator has three DC-10s in its flee, one of which is an ex-FedEx MD-10. It operates cargo flights around South America and to Miami.

 

Kelowna Purolator DC-10 (c) Matthew Capina

Kelowna Purolator DC-10 (c) Matthew Capina

Kelowna Flightcraft Air Charter / Purolator Canada
The Canadian cargo operator has four DC-10s operating usually from its Kelowna and Hamilton bases, although two aircraft have been in storage recently.

 

Omega Air DC-10 (c) Phil Vabre

Omega Air DC-10 (c) Phil Vabre

Omega Air
Another tanker operator, Omega Air has a lot of DC-10s on its books, but most are in storage or in the process of being scrapped. The active ones are used to support military refuelling operations, and can thus be found operating all over on missions, including with foreign air forces.

 

10 Tanker DC-10 (c) Alan Radecki. Creative Commons.

10 Tanker DC-10 (c) Alan Radecki. Creative Commons.

10 Tanker Air Carrier
One of the more spectacular DC-10 operations are these converted aerial firefighting aircraft. Using two former passenger examples, these huge aircraft now fight wild fires and are capable of dumping 12,000 US gallons at at time. The aircraft are painted white and red, with 910 and 911 fleet numbers.

 

 

DC-10 Project Orbis

DC-10 Project Orbis

Project Orbis
Finally, another unusual operator of two DC-10s is Project Orbis – a non-profit organisation whose mission is to perform eye operations around the world to prevent blindness and eye diseases. These two Flying Eye Hospital aircraft are equipped with hospital equipment, operating theatres, and teaching facilities. Their N220AU aircraft was the second DC-10 built, and since then an MD-10, N330AU, has been donated by FedEx.

Solar Cargo
A Venezuelan cargo carrier with bases in Caracas and Valencia. They have a single DC-10 in a smart livery which flies throughout Latin America on scheduled and charter flights.

 

In addition to these active DC-10s, stored and retired aircraft can be seen at a number of the bigger storage airports around the US, including Davis-Monthan, AZ, Marana, AZ, Mojave, CA, Roswell, NM, Sanford, FL and Victorville, CA.

Netherlands to host Nuclear Summit with lots of visiting aircraft

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Airport News, Netherlands, Spotting News, Western Europe | Posted on 07-01-2014

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As a heads up for those planning spotting trips in 2014, The Hague in The Netherlands will host the Nuclear Security Summit from 22-24 March.

The event is expected to attract around 50 global leaders, who will mostly descend on the country in their own VIP and government aircraft. Therefore, expect Rotterdam in particular, and Amsterdam Schiphol, airports to receive a lot of unusual and unique visitors worth seeing.

If you do visit, send us your pictures!

Vueling adds Rome Fiumicino base

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Airline News, Airport News, Eastern Europe, Germany, Greece, Italy, Malta, Netherlands, Spain, Spotting News, Western Europe | Posted on 21-11-2013

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This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Generic license.Hot off the heels of its announcement about creating a hub at Brussels, Vueling has come up trumps again with the announcement that Rome Fiumicino Airport will also become a base from Summer 2014.

This time the airline is adding a massive 24 new routes from Rome.

This will no doubt capitalise on the struggling Alitalia and its own network from Rome, as Vueling are targeting both domestic and international routes.

The new routes are:

  • Alicante
  • Amsterdam
  • Athens
  • Bari
  • Berlin
  • Brindisi
  • Brussels
  • Catania
  • Corfu
  • Dubrovnik
  • Genoa
  • Heraklion
  • Lamezia
  • Malta
  • Munich
  • Mykonos
  • Palermo
  • Prague
  • Rhodes
  • Santiago de Compostela
  • Santorini
  • Seville
  • Split
  • Torino

The airline already operates from Rome to Barcelona, Ibiza, Malaga, Mahon, Nantes, Palma de Mallorca, Paris Orly, and Valencia.

KLM brings forward MD-11 retirement

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Airline News, Canada, Dubai, Middle East, Netherlands, North America, Spotting News, USA, Western Europe | Posted on 31-10-2013

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KLM MD-11The retirement date for the McDonnell Douglas MD-11 from passenger service has been brought forward by two years as KLM looks to end operations in a year’s time.

KLM are now the only operator of the MD-11 in passenger configuration, and is currently flying it from its Amsterdam Schiphol hub to destinations such as Montreal, Toronto, San Francisco and Dubai on a seasonal basis, with four examples still in active service.

However, whilst the retirement was originally planned for 2016, it has now been brought forward to October 2014.

Final flights will be from Montreal and Toronto on 25th October 2014 (exact details not yet known).

Interestingly, the MD-11 will be retired from passenger service in the same year as its predecessor, the DC-10, despite them entering service almost 20 years apart.

I have had the pleasure of flying on MD-11s twice – first with American Airlines in 1995, and most recently on KLM’s PH-KCK in 2007. It has had mixed fortunes, with poor performance stats and a number of high profile crashes contrasted with a reputation as a solid and reliable aircraft – particularly for cargo carriers. It will be a sad day when the MD-11 is finally retired.

Find out more about rare passenger aircraft and how you can fly on them today in our ebook, Last Chance to Fly, featuring the MD-11

Air Lituanica launches operations

Posted by Matt Falcus | Posted in Airline News, Airport News, Belgium, Eastern Europe, Germany, Lithuania, Netherlands, Russia, Western Europe | Posted on 04-07-2013

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New Lithuanian airline Air Lituanica has launched operations using a single Embraer 170 aircraft from its Vilnius base.

The airline has initially launched daily flights to Brussels, with the intention of attracting inbound tourism to Lithuania.

Flights to Amsterdam Schiphol are due to commence on 8th July, followed by Berlin on 5th August. Later, flights will be introduced to Moscow, Munich and Prague.

Air Lituanica flights are operated in cooperation with Estonian Air.