Sunday, February 18, 2018

Niš Airport aims to become airline base

Niš Constantine the Great Airport plans for sustained passenger growth this year as its focus shifts towards infrastructure development so as to create necessary conditions for budget airlines to station an aircraft in the city. General Manager, Vladica Djurdjanović, previously said the airport lacks the capacity to act as a base, however, this is set to change with the completion of several ongoing projects. “There is interest from airlines to set up a base but we have to finish a few things first. I am hopeful that the planned investments will be completed and that an airline will then station an aircraft in Niš", Mr Djurdjanović said.

The airport, which saw triple digit passenger growth for a second year in a row in 2017, will begin trialling a new instrument landing system (ILS) later this month, which provides guidance to aircraft approaching and landing on a runway during low ceilings or reduced visibility due to fog, rain or snow. The possession of such equipment is one of the main preconditions for any airline to open a base. Its usage will result in Niš being classified as a Category I airport by the International Civil Aviation Organisation. This will be followed up with the construction of a new 27-metre control tower, with work on the ten million euro project to commence once matters relating to property rights are resolved. The final two projects the airport has set out to complete is the installation of approach lights, as well as a 3.5 million euro expansion of the terminal building, which will begin later this year and is scheduled for completion in 2019. Last week, the Serbian government said it had allocated 7.5 million euros for the development of Constantine the Great Airport this year.

Niš Airport started the year off strongly by handling 28.459 passengers in January, representing an increase of 37.5% on 2017. It anticipates welcoming 450.000 travellers this year and has projected strong growth over the coming period, with up to 650.000 travellers expected in 2021. The airport is now served by Wizz Air, Ryanair and Swiss International Air Lines on a year-round basis after lowering its fees to three euros for handling, landing and passenger services. It intends on becoming self-sustainable by year's end. Wizz Air has so far announced plans to launch new flights between Vienna and Niš this November, while Swiss will add an extra weekly service from Zurich for a total of three per week. The airport is seeking flights to several European cities including Paris, Oslo, Geneva, Frankfurt, Istanbul and Moscow.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Montenegro Airlines outlines 2018 recovery

Montenegro Airlines anticipates for a strong year during which it will launch new routes, stabilise its finances and carry a record number of passengers ahead of the planned renewal of its fleet in 2019. This summer, the airline will introduce new seasonal services from Tivat to Leipzig, Munich and Copenhagen, and operate a series of charter flights to the Iranian and Jordanian capitals of Tehran and Amman, as well as Tel Aviv, Helsinki, Oslo, Bari, Brive-la-Gaillarde, Napoli, Bratislava, Linz, Salzburg, Kosice and Ostrava. Furthermore, it will add frequencies on its services between Podgorica and Lyon. The airline anticipates handling some 620.000 passengers this year, representing an additional 51.000 travellers on 2017. The carrier has been buoyed by its best January results in six years, during which it welcomed 29.335 passengers on board its aircraft. Over the peak summer months, from June until the end September, it plans to handle 360.000 travellers.

Montenegro Airlines' planned summer network

The company's CEO, Živko Banjević, recently said, "Soon we will see a revitalised and healthier Montenegro Airlines, with a new business and commercial strategy, which will enable the company to secure its place on the market, increase passenger numbers and give it a chance to launch operations to new and far-away markets, which is especially important for the tourism industry. We will also become much more aggressive in our commercial policy towards competitors on existing markets". Over the last year, the airline faced issues with its workforce and fleet after posting a record 11.4 million euro loss in 2016. However, it also embarked on a restructuring process involving the reduction of its headcount, cutting back costs, drafting a long-term business and commercial strategy and acquiring modern software solutions for sales and revenue control.

Montenegro Airlines considering B737 MAX jets

Montenegro Airlines plans to purchase new aircraft through operational leases in order to replace its two remaining Fokker 100 jets in 2019 and 2020 respectively. It is eyeing either Boeing 737 MAX or New-Generation aircraft. Alternatively, the airline is also considering becoming an all-Embraer operator by taking on additional jets from the Brazilian manufacturer to join its three E190s. "By promoting Montenegro in the best possible way and linking it with the rest of Europe, Montenegro Airlines contributes to the country's European integration process. The company was and remains one of the pillars of the tourism industry, tourism development and our country as a whole. In accordance with these principles, we will continue to develop and adjust our future growth", the airline said in a statement.

TRIP REPORT: Air Asia, Kuala Lumpur - Penang


Submitted by B. Krtolica

I know this isn't a trip that involves destinations within Ex-Yu but it's always good to see what's going on in the rest of the world. My wife and I planned a one day food trip to Penang on Air Asia. Penang is well known for being a food destination. We had a 08.35 departure which meant getting to KL Sentral by 06.00 to catch the KLIA Ekspres. This train takes roughly 25 minutes to Kuala Lumpur International Airport 2 (a 60km journey which can take over an hour by car) and costs RM55. And for your reference, RM1 works out to be 0.25 USD. KL Sentral was practically dead at this time. Fun fact: it is the largest train station in South East Asia.

KLIA2 was built as a replacement for the previous low cost terminal, which was known as LCCT. It is a well organised terminal and was much better than the LCCT, which was essentially a converted cargo building.

Air Asia have a pretty straight forward self check-in process. As we checked in on their app, all we had to do was to use the machine below to print our boarding passes. And given that this was a food trip, the only baggage we had were our empty stomachs.

A lot of construction going on within KLIA2, which only opened a few years ago.

We arrived at the gate about 10 minutes before the scheduled boarding time of 0835. However, boarding didn't happen till about 0850 and they already had "FINAL CALL" on the FID. Air Asia boasts about having great on time arrival performance but they never seem to leave on time.

Boarding was very orderly and the crew were friendly. The flight was full to the last seat.

If you didn't have a WIFI-enabled device, your entertainment will only consist of the below magazine or staring out the window. The magazine was actually quite well written.

Those with WIFI enabled devices were in luck with on board WIFI being offered. Given the exchange rate, the prices are on par with other airlines. The 10 MB plan works out to be 2.50 USD, where a comparative plan on Air Serbia is around the same. You can however, use the WIFI for free if you only use, which provides an onboard meal/drinks menu, travel guides, games, music and some selected video content.

The lavatory was pretty clean, if basic. That said, this is still a low cost airline.

We arrived about 5 minutes behind schedule at PEN.

Penang Airport is Malaysia's third busiest, after Kuala Lumpur and Kota Kinabalu. Fairly busy at this time of the day.

There are a few choices for transport to/from PEN. We opted to use Uber, which is very well priced and you're almost always guaranteed to have a good experience. Taxis in Malaysia are notorious for gouging passengers and refusing to use their meters. Uber, and a local competitor called Grab, have been well embraced by locals and tourists.

Anyways, I hope you enjoyed our small trip report.

Share your travel experience by submitting a trip report to

Friday, February 16, 2018

Onur Air to launch Ohrid flights

Turkish low cost airline Onur Air will commence services between Istanbul's Ataturk Airport and Ohrid this summer season, following talks with the Macedonian government last October. The carrier will maintain a one weekly seasonal service from April 15 until October 7 and is the latest in a string of carriers to announce new flights to the lake-side city this year, joining Brussels Airlines (Brussels), TUIfly (Eindhoven), Corendon Dutch Airlines (Maastricht), Nordica (Tallinn) and Wizz Air (Vienna). Tickets for Onur Air's new Ohrid service can currently be purchased through Turkish tour operators Tatil Budur and BTB tour, although the airline is considering putting tickets directly on sale if there is sufficient demand.

The Macedonian government has outlined it aim to attract more low cost carriers to Ohrid. "We, as a government, have an obligation to do our outmost to develop air traffic, and, in that sense, we will support any airline that wishes to fly to Macedonia. St Paul the Apostle Airport in Ohrid has untapped potential and we are focusing on shifting traffic to that airport and providing the public with many destinations operated by low cost airlines", the Macedonian Minister for Transport and Communication, Goran Sugareski, said recently. Ohrid Airport handled a record 159.072 passengers in 2017, representing an increase of 9.7% on the previous year. Apart from the new routes being launched this year, Ohrid is also served by Arkia Israeli Airlines from Tel Aviv, Germania Flug and Helvetic Airways from Zurich, Small Planet Airlines from Katowice and TUIfly from Amsterdam.

Onur Air boasts a fleet of 24 aircraft operating to almost forty destinations, including a comprehensive domestic network. Within Europe, it runs scheduled flights to Russia, France, Germany, Austria, the Netherlands and Ukraine. Currently, Turkish Airlines and Pegasus operate scheduled flights between Istanbul and Skopje. The Turkish city is the busiest route to and from Macedonia, accounting for 12.3% of all passengers in 2017, while Turkish Airlines is the second busiest carrier in the country behind Wizz Air, which maintains a base in Skopje. A total of 129.708 Turkish tourists visited Macedonia in 2017, representing an increase of 22.7% on the year before. Most visitors arriving in Macedonia are from Turkey.

Further details for Onur Air's new Istanbul - Ohrid service can be found here.

Montenegro to start Tehran charters in March


Montenegro Airlines will launch charter flights between Podgorica and Tehran on March 28. It comes after the carrier concluded an agreement with Iranian tour operator Negin Parvaz Pars last November. Flights will run once per week. Montenegro Airlines will become the first carrier from the former Yugoslavia to operate services to Iran since international sanctions imposed on the Middle Eastern country were lifted in 2016. The charter service will primarily cater for high-end Iranian holidaymakers who will be staying at the Splendid and Avala hotels on the Montenegrin coast.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Zagreb Airport set for busy summer

Zagreb Airport anticipates record passenger growth this summer season with the arrival of new airlines, the launch of new routes, as well as the addition of frequencies and capacity on existing services. The dominance of full service carriers is set to continue as they are projected to account for over 90% of all seats on offer from the Croatian capital this summer. Following on from a record 2017, Zagreb Airport has continued to post strong results in the new year. In January, it handled 191.276 passengers, representing an increase of 13.3% on the year before. The number of aircraft movements grew 8.6% to 3.039.

MonthPAXChange (%)
JAN191.276 13.3

Two new foreign carriers will commence operations to the Croatian capital this year with Aegean Airlines to start three weekly flights from Athens, which will be followed by Air Canada Rouge's four weekly service from Toronto. The latter will compete directly against Air Transat, which itself will increase its seasonal flights to Zagreb by resuming operations on May 15, some two weeks ahead of last year. Last month, Air Canada Rouge, which will offer a total 20.586 seats each way between Toronto and Zagreb during the June 2 to October 7 period, told EX-YU Aviation News, "We are satisfied with advanced bookings for our new Zagreb service. It has fully met our expectations. This is why we have allocated four weekly frequencies to this route, which is primarily targeted at leisure travellers".

For a third year running, Croatia Airlines will launch new routes out of Zagreb with flights to Dublin and Mostar planned to commence in May. “We are excited that for the first time in Croatia Airlines’ history we will have a Zagreb - Dublin route. We see the introduction of this flight as a contribution to the development of tourism in both countries and we are looking forward to seeing many Irish citizens in the Croatian capital, as well as in other parts of Croatia", Croatia Airlines' CEO, Jasmin Bajić, said. Furthermore, the carrier will add four additional afternoon flights on its Skopje service for a total of twelve per week, as well as an extra two weekly operations to Rome (via Dubrovnik) for a total of ten. It will also add one service to St Petersburg, bringing its total number of flights on the route to three per week. This growth will offset the airline's reduction in flights between Zagreb and London Heathrow.

Emirates will enter its second year of operations in Zagreb this summer, with the airline maintaining daily flights from its Dubai hub. "Emirates remains committed to the Croatian market, and works closely with our travel industry partners to support and grow the route. Our new partnership with Flydubai now offers additional possibilities to serve our customers in Croatia better, and the two airlines continue to talk and develop the partnership", the Dubai-based airline told EX-YU Aviation News recently. Meanwhile, Spain's Iberia will maintain up to eight weekly seasonal flights from Madrid to the Croatian capital, an increase from five weekly last year. It will also bring forward the resumption of the service by a month to early May. LOT Polish Airlines will boost operations between Warsaw and Zagreb from ten weekly last summer to double daily starting June 26, while Lufthansa’s low cost subsidiary Eurowings plans to handle some 200.000 passengers to and from the Croatian capital this year, with the novelty this summer being its service from Dusseldorf which was launched during the 2017/18 winter season. Swiss International Air Lines, Brussels Airlines and ČSA Czech Airlines will all resume seasonal flights from their respective hubs to Zagreb on March 25.

You can review what's in store this summer at Belgrade Airport here and for Ljubljana Airport here.

Croatia Airlines CEO tender annulled


The Croatian government has cancelled an open call for the selection of the national carrier's new management team for a second time. It comes following criticism from labour unions that the process was being rigged and mishandled by the government after it removed prior experience in the aviation industry from the list of job requirements. A new open call is expected to be launched next week. Representatives from Croatia Airlines' unions met with the Minister for Sea, Transport and Infrastructure, Oleg Butković, yesterday where they again aired their grievances about the carrier's position on the market and the current management. "The biggest problem is the management which is continuing on with the same business practices from the 1990s, despite the aviation industry constantly changing and evolving. What was unthinkable five years ago is acceptable today and alliances that were once strong are being dismantled while new ones are being formed", the representative of the Union of Croatian Pilots, Ivan Šimundić, said. He added, "The Minister has informed us that the open call for the selection of the new management team has been annulled and a new one will commence next week". Just last week, Minister Butković said that there were no issues with the appointment of the carrier's new management and that "everything will be OK”.