Sunday, August 28, 2016

Dubrovnik Airport sees record August

Dubrovnik Airport is on course to record its busiest summer in history, with 286.182 passengers handled between August 1 - 24. The figure represents an increase of 11.3% compared to the same period last year. Since the start of 2016, the airport welcomed 1.345.786 travellers through its doors, up 14.7% on 2015. The number of aircraft movements up until this Tuesday stood at 13.174, an increase of 12.2% on last year's 11.746. Dubrovnik Airport's Deputy General Manager, Frano Luetić, recently said, "We anticipated our annual growth rate to amount to 3% or 4%. The double digit growth we have seen has surprised us so it is difficult to predict how the rest of the season will perform".

Dubrovnik Airport's strong showing so far this year is expected to continue into the winter season, with several airlines to maintain year-round flights to the city, while talks with Ryanair are still ongoing. Following discussions with local authorities, the airport and Tourist Board, Ryanair requested for Dubrovnik Airport to reduce its fees and sign a multi-year contract prior to it starting operations. Ryanair's Route Development Manager, Luis Fernandez-Mellado, said the budget carrier is willing to maintain year-round flights from Dubrovnik, describing it as an extremely interesting destination. He added there is already strong demand for the airline to introduce services to the coastal city, which would prove as an excellent city-break option during the winter months. Mr Fernandez-Mellado also hinted at the possibility of Ryanair operating domestic flights within Croatia, noting that it runs a number of domestic services within European Union-member states. Following talks with the airline, the Mayor of Dubrovnik, Andro Vlahušić, said the city is prepared to sign an agreement with Ryanair which would be applicable until 2024.

Other carriers which will introduce new services to Dubrovnik this winter include Croatia Airlines, which will maintain flights to Frankfurt, as well as Vueling, which will operate two weekly flights from Rome. In addition, Turkish Airlines, which launched services from Istanbul to Dubrovnik in May will also maintain the route throughout the year. Meanwhile, flights between New York and Dubrovnik could launch in 2017 with local authorities seeking a partner for the service. The city expects for the route to be maintained twice per week throughout the year. The Dubrovnik Tourist Board is contacting potential carriers and tour operators interested in running the service.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Užice Airport opening delayed

The opening of Užice Ponikve Airport, in western Serbia, scheduled for late August, has been delayed after little work was done on erecting a perimeter fence and installing a new lighting system over the summer. In April, the airport opened a new passenger terminal and overhauled its apron. According to local authorities, the opening has been delayed as the finances required to complete the work were miscalculated and additional funding will be needed. "It turns out that an additional three million euros are required. The formation of the [Serbian] government over the past two months has also slowed things down", the Mayor of Užice, Tihomir Petković, said. He added, "However, we are not giving up on the project. Realistically, work will not be completed this year, but it is important that it starts this year and is completed in 2017".

Užice Airport was destroyed during the 1999 NATO bombing. However, the Serbian government and the European Union have jointly invested over one million euros into the creation of a project masterplan, while significant funds were put into the removal of unexploded bombs around the airport's runway. Its control tower was reopened in 2013 following a major overhaul by the Serbia and Montenegro Air Traffic Services Agency, while Belgrade Airport also donated funds. "We were recently contacted by an investment fund from Saudi Arabia that is interested in buying the airport. The fund sent a contract and asked us for an offer. We have requested for the government to make a decision because it should not be up to us to decide whether it is in the state's interest to sell the airport and we are not certain whether this is a feasible option at this time", Mr Petković said.

Earlier this year, the General Manager of Užice Airport, Saša Savić, said, "There is interest for flights, especially from foreign tourists who would like to visit nearby Zlatibor Mountain and Mokra Gora. We are already in talks with a local hotel in Zlatibor and have discussed the possibility of operating promotional charters to several European countries (Cyprus, Greece, Russia and Slovenia) with both smaller and larger aircraft, including Boeing jets with the capacity to seat 150 passenger". He added, "If these prove successful, we hope to have regular charter flights next year. At this point, we are partially ready to handle passengers. By the end of August a perimeter fence will be erected, a lighting system will be installed, which will allow aircraft to use the airport at low visibility, and we will then be fully equipped to welcome travellers".

The Užice region is home to some of Serbia's most exported goods. However, it is also close to several major cities in the former Yugoslavia, with Sarajevo and Belgrade just 118 kilometres away. During the 1996 summer season, JAT Yugoslav Airlines operated a two weekly Belgrade - Užice - Tivat service. Over the past few years, small private aircraft have used the airport during the daytime. Užice is Serbia's thirteenth largest city and the administrative centre of the Zlatibor District. It has a fairly developed road and rail network. The entire redevelopment of the airport is valued at nineteen million euros. Questions have been raised whether the project is viable, following the construction of a modern passenger terminal in Kraljevo, in central Serbia in 2012, which has not been used since.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Croatia unveils new airport expansion project

Lošinj Airport has announced a multi million euro upgrade, which will include the construction of a new terminal building and the extension of its runway. Work on the much-delayed project is expected to begin next year and completed by the summer of 2018. It includes the lengthening of the runway from the current 900 to 1.800 metres, which will enable it to cater for larger aircraft with the capacity to seat up to 180 passengers. The project has been labelled of strategic importance for Croatia and is valued at 35 million euros. The airport’s expansion will be carried out under a public-private partnership, with Jadranka, a local operator of several hotels and villas, and the municipality of Mali Lošinj as the principal stakeholders.

The Croatian Minister for Tourism, Anton Kliman, says the government has finalised all necessary producers related to the project. "There are only a few technical details to be resolved in order for the project to be presented to cabinet and for a contract to be signed with the Jadranka group", Mr Kliman said. He added, "The Lošinj Airport project will significantly increase capacity for tourist arrivals and give a new perspective for the future development of the town of Mali Lošinj, the islands of Lošinj and Cres, and the Croatian tourism industry in this part of the Adriatic". Upon completion, the airport aims to attract flights primarily from the United Kingdom and Scandinavia.

Lošinj Airport, opened in 1985 for general aviation purposes, has no scheduled flights. However, during the first seven months of the year it handled 3.892 passengers, primarily as a result of European Coastal Airlines, which operated services from the airport until the carrier was grounded by regulators two weeks ago. The expansion plan is the latest in a string of airport projects currently taking place in the country.

Current airport projects

Zagreb Airport

The construction of Zagreb Airport's new passenger terminal is in its final months with work expected to be completed next month and the opening scheduled for March 2017. At approximately 65.000 square metres, the new terminal building is currently the largest construction site in the country. Work has been ongoing for three years.

Dubrovnik Airport

The multi million euro expansion of Dubrovnik Airport is in full swing, with construction of the new Terminal C building to be completed on schedule next month, while the official opening is slated for March 2017. The new terminal will stretch over 24.181 square metres, according to the project outline. Furthermore, it will feature an additional two air bridges. The new facility is located next to the existing Terminal B building. Once all work is completed, the two will be combined into a single functioning unit. The new terminal is part of a major 274 million euro expansion, which includes the construction of new storage facilities, access roads, a car park and the lengthening of the runway and taxiways. The airport plans to begin work on expanding its apron and taxiways later this year, while the overhaul of the runway is scheduled for next winter. The entire expansion project is to be completed in 2019 and is largely financed through EU structural funds.

Split Airport

Following three years of constant delays, the construction of Split Airport's much needed new passenger terminal will begin this autumn. The new terminal will stretch over 34.500 square metres and increase the airport’s capacity to 3.5 million passengers per year. Furthermore, the car park and bus area will be expanded by 35.500 square metres. The project is valued at 59.3 million euros and is estimated to take just over two years to complete. A contractor is expected to be announced next week.

Brač Airport

Brač Airport has embarked on a six million euro extension of its 1.440-metre runway. The island airport aims to handle larger aircraft by adding a further 320 metres to the runway. Work is scheduled to last throughout the summer. It currently caters for aircraft up to 100 seats and hopes to handle Fokkers, Airbus A319s and new Bombardier C-series jets once the lengthening of the runway is completed.

Pula Airport

Pula Airport upgraded its passenger terminal this year, investing some 600.000 euros of its own funds in refurbishing the building. The work was carried out during the winter season and completed in late March. International departures have been adapted to Schengen standards, becoming the only airport in Croatia that is currently fully prepared for Schengen travel. Pula Airport plans to build a new 36.000 square metre passenger terminal in the near future as part of its new development masterplan.

Arkia to launch seasonal Belgrade flights


Arkia Israeli Airlines will launch seasonal winter flights between Tel Aviv and Belgrade. Services will operate twice per week, each Thursday and Sunday afternoon, and will commence on October 23. They are currently planned to run until the end of the year. The carrier will use its 110-seat Embraer E190 aircraft on the route. Tickets are available for purchase through the airline's website, however, booking can only be made for round trips departing Tel Aviv. This summer, Arkia has been operating seasonal flights to Ohrid and Rijeka within the former Yugoslavia. The Israeli carrier will compete against Air Serbia on the route, which will maintain five weekly flights between Belgrade and Tel Aviv this winter.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Chinese carriers eye EX-YU market

Zagreb and Belgrade are to be linked with Beijing next year as demand for air travel to and from China continues to grow. In addition, Ljubljana is also seeking flights to the country. Beijing Capital Airlines, which recently received clearance from local regulators to launch services to Zagreb next year has confirmed to EX-YU Aviation News its intent to follow through with its plans. The carrier says that while flights will primarily cater for tourists, tickets will be available to individual travellers as well. The service, which will run twice per week, will launch in June with its 222-seat Airbus A330-200 jet. Beijing Capital Airlines, a subsidiary of Hainan Airlines, flies an all-Airbus fleet of 67 aircraft from its core bases in Beijing, Guangzhou, Shenyang, Xi’an and Hangzhou to cities across China and international destinations in Asia, Europe and North America. “BCA obtained IOSA accreditation this May and officially became an IATA member”, Beijing Capital Airlines CEO, Xu Jun, said last week. In 2015, over 203.000 Chinese tourists visited Croatia with 269.000 overnight stays registered. The figures represent a 36% increase in arrivals and 37% in overnights. This year over 300.000 visitors from China are expected to arrive in Croatia.

Flights between Beijing and Belgrade are set to begin next year as well after the Serbian government entered into talks with a yet-to-be named Chinese carrier over the matter last month. The service is expected to be introduced before flights between Beijing and Zagreb are launched. Chinese airlines must first be granted approval from the Civil Aviation Administration of China to commence a particular route. Whether any carrier lodged an application during the third quarter of this year to run services to the Serbian capital in 2017 won't be made public until mid-October. The European Travel Commission, which is forecasting a 7.4% increase of Chinese arrival numbers to Europe this year, has identified Serbia as a growing market for Chinese tourists, as they look to travel to more ‘novel’ locations. However, only 14.200 Chinese holiday makers visited the country last year.

Ljubljana Jože Pučnik Airport is also seeking to establish a direct air link to Beijing. Both the Chinese Embassy in Slovenia and the Slovenian government have begun procedures for the flights to be launched. Ljubljana Airport's Head of Airline Management, Janez Krašnja, recently said that the airport is supporting the Embassy's efforts, noting that intercontinental flights would give it a competitive advantage in the region. He expressed hope that a Chinese carrier could be persuaded to launch the service. In May, the Slovenian Minister for Economic Development and Technology, Zdravko Počivalšek, discussed the possibility of introducing flights between the two capital cities, with Ljubljana likely to be used a stopover en route to another European destination such as Prague. Slovenia welcomed 37.796 Chinese tourists in 2015.