Founded in 2001 by Alain Skowronek and Christian Mandl with money provided by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, ABN Amro, and Austria’s Creditanstalt, SkyEurope Airlines looked like a promising Eastern European low-cost carrier.
While some people criticized the idea of basing the airline at Bratislava Airport (BTS), 5.6 miles northeast of the Slovak capital, the location made sense for several reasons. Bratislava or Pressburg as it was called during the Austro-Hungarian Empire, lies 35 miles down the Danube River from Vienna.
Bratislava has a wide catchment area
The international airport serving Vienna, located near the village of Schwechat, is 39 miles from Bratislava and has excellent road communication between the two airports. Because of this, it is widespread to see both Slovaks and Austrians using both airports.
Also, with Bratislava located where it is the Czech Republic city of Brno can be considered as being in the catchment area of the airport along with the northern Hungarian city of Győr. All four countries, Austria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Slovakia, are in the European Union, ensuring their citizens’ border-free travel.
SkyEuopes first flight was to Košice
SkyEurope Airlines commenced operations on February 13, 2002, when a 30-seat Embraer 120 ER Brasília turboprop operated a domestic flight between Bratislava and Košice International Airport (KCS) in Eastern Slovakia. On September 27, 2005, the airline went public on the Vienna and Warsaw stock exchanges, a first for any Slovak company. The offering price was € 6.00, which valued the airline at 120 million euros. In the following weeks, the share price dropped to € 5.00 prompting the HVG Group to issue a buy recommendation, believing the stock could go as high as € 6.50.
In 2006 Sky Europe slashed its ticket prices to almost nothing as it continued to grow. A year later, SkyEurope Airlines opened a base at Vienna International Airport (VIE) and operated 16 routes with two Boeing 737-700s. In the fall of 2007, SkyEurope closed its bases at Krakow John Paul II International Airport (KRK) and Budapest Ferenc Liszt International Airport (BUD). The aircraft the airline operated out of Poland and Hungary were sent to Bratislava and Václav Havel Airport Prague (PRG) in the Czech Republic.
During 2008 SkyEurope Airlines transported 3.57 million passengers, but it was still less than its Central Europe competitor, Hungary-based Wizz Air, who, over the same period, transported 5.8 million.
The airline started to experience financial problems
Due to stiff competition from other European low-cost carriers and SkyEurope’s determination to operate with very low-profit margins, by 2009 the airline began to have financial difficulties. With € 25million owed to hedge fund York Global Finance due on July 15, SkyEurope started looking for a new owner. It had already returned six leased Boeing 737s to GECAS earlier in the year. On June 23, 2009, SkyEurope went into administration after being granted protection from its creditors by the Slovak courts.
In August 2009, SkyEurope was banned from Vienna due to unpaid landing fees forcing the airline to operate all of its flights out of Bratislava. On August 31, 2009, the airline suspended all flights leaving passengers stranded throughout Europe. Seeing an opportunity, Irish low-cost airline Ryanair announced it would fly stranded passengers home for an all-inclusive fare of € 25 one-way.
During its lifetime, SkyEurope Airlines flew to 30 destinations in 17 countries with a fleet of 32 aircraft that included the following planes:
- 4 x Embraer EMB-120RTs
- 2 x Embraer EMB-120ERs
- 4 x Boeing 737-300s
- 7 x Boeing 737-500s
- 15 x Boeing 737-700s