The main reason underlying this trend is the fiercer competition in long-haul routes, Romania’s large area, economic development of other cities than Bucharest and transit traffic.

“Even if 2009 will be very difficult to the global aviation industry, subsequently, the short-haul flight segment will also face mounting pressures, but we expect it to stay in the range of last year. The niche however, bears high potential. Let’s not forget that Romania is only at the beginning of the road or of the EU, and domestic airline traffic should take up the upward trend of economic growth and purchase power”, Ruxandra Brutaru (photo) managing director of Tarom told Wall-Street.

Wizz Air carrier affirms the potential of this market, even if short-haul domestic flights are not its top priorities in Romania. “Short-haul flights don’t make up a basic element in our activity in Romania, but we will consider any opportunity that emerges, as it is a segment not yet used to the greatest possible advantage”, said Natasa Kazmer, communication director of the company.

Even if Blue Air had said the development of domestic flights segment required a too high investment in narrow-body airliners (of 60-70 seats), the low-fare operator changed its strategy. “This year, we decided to tap this segment by the introduction of a new flight Suceava-Cluj Napoca effective as of July 15”, said Adrian Ionascu, managing director of Blue Air.

Tarom grabs more than three quarters of the domestic market

The national airline carrier Tarom, remains the leader in short-haul flights with a market share of 78% at the end of first quarter 2009, up 3% from prior-year period, according to own statements. In January – May this year, 182,466 passengers flied with Tarom to domestic destinations, compared to 474, 401 passengers last year.

“Tarom currently operates 139 weekly flights to Timisoara, Cluj, Iasi, Oradea, Suceava, Baia Mare, Bacau, Sibiu, Targu Mures, Satu Mare and Constanta”, the managing director of the airline carrier added.

If many of the destinations are traditional routes operated by Tarom for ten years, the company has added new routes, introduced a month ago, Bucharest-Constanta, and Cluj-Constanta. “The highest load factor is registered on the flights from Bucharest to Cluj, Timisoara, Iasi, Oradea and Baia Mare”, Brutaru added.

The average load factor of Tarom aircrafts in domestic flights was 69% in 2008, higher than the load for long-haul flights (61%). “Seasonality is not a major problem in domestic flights. The traffic flows dropped slightly in August and in holiday periods”, said the head of Tarom.

Domestic flights account for 7.77% in Tarom’s total revenues, and 9.77% of the operating revenues.

For domestic flights, the national airline company uses the 7-aircrafts ATR 45 fleet and two narrow-body ATR 72 aircrafts with 68 seats, as well as the other airliners in the fleet (Boeing, Airbus), if needed.