Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Montenegro outlines Etihad tie-up plans

Montenegro Airlines has announced plans to form a strategic partnership with Etihad Airways, noting that its recent wide-ranging codeshare agreement with Air Serbia is the first in a series of steps to achieving this goal. The President of the carrier's Board of Directors, Daliborka Pejović, says that following the agreement with its Serbian counterpart, Montenegro Airlines will pursue similar deals with Aliatalia and Air Berlin, which are both partly owned by Etihad Airways. "We have been in talks with Etihad Airways for almost two years with the aim of securing a strategic partnership for our national carrier. After Air Serbia, we expect to hold talks with Alitalia and Air Berlin. This is the next step in our mission. Afterwards, we truly hope that we will meet the expectations of the government's Privatisation Council and get a strategic partner for the stable and sustainable future development of our national carrier", Ms Pejović said.

Montenegro Airlines' arrangement with Air Serbia, which will see it place its flight numbers and designator code on 32 destinations, thus allowing it to sell tickets on the Serbian carrier's flights, will come into effect on October 1. Montenegro Airlines already boasts codeshare agreements with Alitalia on its flights between Rome and Podgorica, as well as Adria Airways, Air France, Austrian and S7 Airlines. The carrier currently operates with a fleet of six aircraft, including one Embraer E190, three E195s and two Fokker 100s. However, the airline also faces significant financial problems with a record net loss of over ten million euros registered last year. It has recently emerged that despite its substantial debt, the carrier took out yet another loan in June for 800.000 euros, which must be payed back by September 30.

Ms Pejović conceded that the airline is dealing with a number of issues, further emphasising the need for a strong partner. "Personally, we all have the responsibility to keep this brand at all costs. Despite all the problems we have faced over the past three years we are successfully dealing with them and I believe we are making significant strides that probably no one expected of us in this situation. I hope we will keep moving forward at this same pace", Ms Pejović noted. In 2011, the Montenegrin government offered a 30% stake in its national airline. At the time, Etihad purchased the tender documentation but never made a takeover bid and the privatisation process ultimately failed. In November last year, the two carriers signed a Memorandum of Understanding for Strategic Commercial Cooperation.

Air Serbia records solid New York figures

Air Serbia has seen solid passenger numbers on its transatlantic flights since the launch of its New York service on June 23. According to the President of Air Serbia's Supervisory Board, Siniša Mali, the carrier handled 17.410 passengers on the Belgrade - New York - Belgrade route by the start of this week, exactly two months since the launch. The average cabin load factor stood at 79.1%. "The results are satisfactory and I hope this successful trend will continue in the future", Mr Mali said yesterday. Air Serbia maintains five weekly flights to New York with its 254-seat Airbus A330-200 aircraft, featuring eighteen seats in business class and the remaining 236 in economy.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Air Serbia considering Kazakhstan flights

The Chairman of the Air Serbia Supervisory Board and the Mayor of Belgrade, Siniša Mali, has said the airline is considering launching flights to Kazakhstan following talks with the regional governor of the central Asian republic's largest province of Almaty. According to Mr Mali, the service would strengthen relations between the two countries and improve business links. The talks come ahead of an official three-day state visit by the President of Kazakhstan, Nursultan Nazarbayev, to Serbia which begins today. According to Mr Mali, further discussions on the potential new route will be held during the visit. Air Serbia has made no comments on the matter. Simmilarly, in February, Mr Mali announced that the Serbian carrier was eyeing services to Kiev and St Petersburg. The new routes were confirmed and launched several months later.

Almaty Airport is Kazakhstan's busiest, handling some five million passengers per year. The country's national carrier, Air Astana, maintains a base in the city offering flights to Europe and Asia. Several European airlines also serve Almaty, including Lufthansa, KLM, Aeroflot and Belavia, as well as Czech Airlines and Ellin Air on a seasonal basis. Serbian citizens do not need a visa to enter Kazakhstan. Furthermore, Serbia is one of only a handful of European countries that do not require Kazakhstani passport holders entry visas. Others include Macedonia, Albania, Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova and Russia. Air Serbia's part-owner, Etihad Airways, will suspend flights to Almaty, along with Larnaca, at the start of the 2016/17 winter season this October. The carrier maintained three weekly flights to Kazakhstan's largest city with an Airbus A319 aircraft.

Currently, none of the national carriers from the former Yugoslavia operate flights to central Asia. Apart from potential transfer passengers, services between Belgrade and Kazakhstan could cater for Serbian workers and engineers who are involved in the development of several major infrastructure projects in the country, although whether this could be enough to turn the potential service into reality remains to be seen. Kazakhstan will host the major bi-annual international exposition Expo in 2017 with around two to three million people expected to visit the international pavilions from June to September next year.

Podgorica Airport records strong growth


Podgorica Airport has recorded strong passenger growth during the first seven months of the year. It registered 461.835 travellers during the January - July period, of which 240.424 were departing passengers, and the remaining 221.411 arriving. The figure represents growth of 14.7% on 2015. The number of aircraft movements stood at 3.410, up 9.3%. Podgorica Airport is now close to overtaking Sarajevo as the ninth busiest in the former Yugoslavia, a title it held several years ago. Podgorica is expected to record further growth in August with Wizz Air recently launching two new routes to the city and Ryanair set to follow with a new service in early September.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Croatia Airlines sets April 2017 for base opening

Croatia Airlines is preparing for the opening of several bases in south-eastern Europe, primarily in the former Yugoslavia. The carrier has previously announced its intention to commence flights from Sarajevo, Pristina, Skopje and Tirana to several European destinations in 2017. "Market research data has shown that there is a potential for the successful opening of additional bases in the south-eastern European region and Croatia Airlines, as a European Union community carrier, has recognised its business interest in this", the airline told EX-YU Aviation News recently. It added, "The prerequisite for this is to purchase four to six new aircraft and extensive preparations are underway. Only after would it be possible to define all the details and possibly open additional bases".

The first of the bases is set to open at the start of the 2017 summer season in April, however, the exact city and the destinations to be served are yet to be announced. Croatia Airlines' CEO, Krešimir Kučko, previously said that the company has calculated its planned regional expansion and decided on its route network. "Everything should be defined by the end of the year and implemented from April 1, 2017", Mr Kučko said. "The pace at which each base will be launched will depend on the arrival of new aircraft", he added. The opening of new bases should ease Croatia Airlines' dependence on its highly seasonal home market. Since it is a European Union-based carrier, the airline will be able to offer flights from points in the former Yugoslavia to EU-member states, as those outside the bloc are often subject to bilateral air agreements. The Croatian carrier is focusing on countries that do not have their own national carriers.


Sarajevo Airport is best suited for Croatia Airlines' future plans. The airport still lacks connections to major European hubs, including London, Paris and Amsterdam. Sarajevo is also one of the few European capital city airports without direct links to Brussels. This could change with the arrival of Wizz Air, however, the carrier's renewed talks with Sarajevo Airport have been ongoing for months. The airport itself was quick to note that negotiations are still at an early stage. Croatia Airlines is currently the sixth largest airline in Sarajevo in terms of capacity. In 2015, it handled 59.497 passengers on its flights between Zagreb and Sarajevo. During the 2016/17 winter season, the carrier plans to maintain thirteen weekly services to the Bosnian capital, the same as last year.

Busiest airlineTurkish Airlines
Busiest routeIstanbul
Busiest route (EU)Vienna


Although it lacks a home carrier, Pristina Airport serves as a base to Adria Airways, which operates flights to Germany's two busiest airports - Frankfurt and Munich. However, there is still room for another player. The busiest unserved destinations from the airport include Helsinki, London Heathrow, Oslo and Brussels. Pristina offers attractive incentives for airlines that base aircraft at the airport. As a result, Croatia Airlines would receive a 100% discount on parking fees and a 100% discount on office space at Pristina Airport for a two-year period. Depending on its results, the carrier would also be eligible for a number of other incentives. Croatia Airlines handled 7.126 passengers between Pristina and Zagreb last year. It will suspend flights between the two cities this winter season.

Busiest airlineGermania
Busiest routeZurich
Busiest route (EU)Dusseldorf


Skopje could prove the most challenging future base for Croatia Airlines. Although Macedonia does not have a national carrier, Wizz Air boasts an extensive network from the city, linking it with western, northern and southern Europe. However, the Croatian carrier could position itself as a legacy alternative, offering extras such as free baggage and providing passengers with better options to connect via major European hubs onwards to far-away destinations through its Star Alliance partners. Croatia Airlines handled 46.809 passengers between Skopje and Zagreb last year, making it the eighth busiest airline at Macedonia's largest airport. The carrier attempted to operate seasonal services between Split and Skopje last summer, however, the flights were cancelled.

Busiest airlineWizz Air
Busiest routeIstanbul
Busiest route (EU)Vienna

* 2015 data