Thursday, April 26, 2018

Macedonian airports set for record summer

Macedonia's two commercial airports will see a significant increase in the number of flights and capacity on offer this summer following a record first quarter. During the January - March period, Skopje Airport welcomed 432.620 passengers, representing an increase of 22.6% on 2017. In March alone, the airport saw 156.952 travellers pass through its doors, up 25.4%. The General Manager of airport operator TAV Macedonia, Alper Ersoy, previously said, "We expect similar growth at Skopje Airport to that of last year. With its current network of 36 destination and the existing growth in demand for air travel, we anticipate welcoming our two millionth passenger during the fall of 2018".

MonthPAXChange (%)
JAN145.591 18.8
FEB130.077 23.6
MAR156.952 25.4

Several carriers will launch new services to the Macedonian capital and add capacity in the coming weeks. On May 30, Wizz Air will base its first 230-seat Airbus A321 aircraft in Skopje, with a second to follow on June 15. They will be deployed on a number of routes including Berlin, Beauvais, Bratislava, Cologne, Eindhoven, Friedrichshafen, Gothenburg, Hahn, Hamburg, Hannover, Malmo, Memmingen, Nuremberg and Rome. Together, the two aircraft will operate a total of 42 flights per week. As a result, Wizz Air will increase its capacity from Macedonia by 23% this year when compared to 2017, offering 1.8 million seats for sale from Skopje and Ohrid. On June 1, Poland's LOT will commence six weekly services to the Macedonian capital, which will continue throughout the winter at four per week after the airline upgraded the route from seasonal to year-round operations. In addition, leisure airline TUIfly will introduce seasonal summer flights between Dusseldorf and Skopje in cooperation with the Reiseburo Prishtina tour operator. Services will run once per week, each Saturday from Dusseldorf and Sunday from Skopje, starting July 7 until September 2.

Macedonia's second international airport in Ohrid has also seen strong growth during the first quarter by handling 16.109 travellers. Following the successful launch of Onur Air's seasonal summer flights from Istanbul earlier this month, Ohrid will also see several new routes launched including Eindhoven by TUIfly, Brussels by Brussels Airlines, Tallinn operated by Nordica, Maastricht by Corendon Dutch Airlines and Warsaw by Enter Air. Furthermore, in November, Wizz Air will inaugurate three weekly flights from Vienna to Ohrid with its A321 jet. In addition, it has also upgraded its seasonal summer flights from London Luton to the lake-side town from summer seasonal to year-round operations.

Busiest airports in the former Yugoslavia, Q1 2018

AirportPAXChange (%)
Belgrade997.518 4.3
Zagreb585.576 13.5
Skopje432.620 22.6
Pristina418.134 17.0
Ljubljana329.212 14.2
Podgorica181.381 18.1
Sarajevo169.124 19.2
Tuzla119.651 51.9
Split117.493 33.2
Dubrovnik94.038 23.8

SMATSA to launch SUSAN project


The Serbia and Montenegro Air Traffic Services Agency (SMATSA) has been granted a loan by the European Investment Bank (EIB) to commence work on the multi million euro improvement of its air navigation services. Known as the SUSAN project (SMATSA Upgrade of System for Air Navigation), it entails an upgrade of all equipment and services, including a new radar system at Belgrade Airport, Besna Kobila Mountain in Serbia and Vršuta Mountain in Montenegro, implementation of a voice-to-ground and ground-to-ground voice communication system, upgrade to SMATSA's aeronautical fixed telecommunications network (AFTN) system and aeronautical message handling system (AMHS), the construction of an annex to the existing air traffic control centre in Belgrade, the construction of a new air traffic control tower in Belgrade (pictured) and the construction of a new air traffic control tower in Niš. SUSAN is valued at 118 million euros and will be completed by 2021. The EIB has provided a loan worth 45 million euros, while the rest will be covered by a loan from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and SMATSA's own funds. In 2016, SMATSA completed work on the overhaul of Tivat Airport's control tower.

Mostar approves Eurowings subsidies


The government of the Herzegovina - Neretva Canton in Bosnia and Herzegovina has approved a five-year subsidy agreement with Eurowings. The low cost airline will be granted just over a quarter of a million euros on a yearly basis until 2023 (inclusive) in order to maintain flights from Dusseldorf and Stuttgart to Mostar, which commence this May. "Considering that Mostar Airport provides services which are of general interest, contributes to the mobility of citizens and the connectivity of the Herzegovina - Neretva county, we have decided to approve these subsidies", the government said in a statement. Previously, it approved half a million euros in subsidies to Croatia Airlines on an annual basis in order for it to maintain year-round services from Zagreb to Mostar starting next week.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

President casts doubt on Etihad - Air Serbia deal

The Serbian President, Aleksandar Vučić, has offered a less than convincing response as to whether Etihad Airways will retain its investment and management agreement with Air Serbia, which expires on January 1, 2019. Speaking at a press conference, Mr Vučić said, "I would like for Etihad not to pull out of Air Serbia and I hope that it won't. That's all I can say. As far as I am aware, there was a meeting of the Air Serbia Supervisory Board recently and they told me all was well. If they [Etihad] decide to withdraw, Air Serbia will survive and it will be in a much better state than Jat was".

Asked whether the government was seeking a new strategic partner for the airline, Mr Vučić responded, "We are not looking for anyone else, we have a partner. We are not trying to get rid of a good partner". Last month, the Serbian Prime Minister, Ana Brnabić, said that Etihad Airways would continue to be Air Serbia's minority shareholder for the foreseeable future. "Etihad is our strategic partner. It is a devoted partner which has not indicated in the slightest that it plans to divest from Serbia and we are very happy about this". The Emirati national carrier is undertaking a strategic evaluation of its business which has seen it cut ties with Air Berlin, Alitalia and Darwin Airline. Furthermore, it has rolled out a range of cost cutting measures including a downgrade of its on board product, the grounding of some of its aircraft and the discontinuation of some routes such as Perth, Ho Chi Minh City and Edinburgh.

Commenting on Air Serbia's flagship route to New York and the sustainability of the service, the Serbian President noted, "Can you make money on flights to New York? Of course you can't. We will be able to do that in about a year or two when three to five years have passed since the route's launch. However, these flights are important for the country's and airline's branding and image". He added, "Jat Airways was a destroyed company. Air Serbia is a much better airline than Jat, both for passengers and our citizens. This is shown in the doubling of the number of travellers and the significantly improved results".

Adria launches travel app


The Slovenian national carrier has unveiled its new mobile application which offers a range of services to passengers. Entitled "Adria App", it is available for those using Android and iOS devices. The app can be downloaded from the Google Play and the App Store and offers individuals the opportunity to book a flight, check-in, manage their booking, check their flight status and view Adria's timetable. Furthermore, articles from Adria's "OnAir" magazine can be viewed via the app and individuals can subscribe to the airline's newsletter, check their Miles & More status, get passenger support and leave their feedback.

LOT upgrades Skopje service


LOT Polish Airlines has upgraded its upcoming new service between Warsaw and Skopje from seasonal to year-round operations. The carrier will continue serving the Macedonian capital past the summer, with four weekly flights. Commenting on the new service, which begins on June 1, LOT previously said, "We will offer passengers from Macedonia the most comfortable connections to Scandinavia and Western Europe, as well as the airports we fly to in North America. We are sure the new offer will meet the expectations of passengers travelling for business and leisure".

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Croatia Airlines unions warn of "alarming state"

Croatia Airlines' employees have drafted an open letter, the second in three months, addressed to the public concerning the present situation in the company. In it, the unions slammed the airline's management noting that half of all mechanics, a third of all pilots and a quarter of all cabin crew have left the carrier in recent months, resulting in over a dozen of flight cancellations during the past few days. Furthermore, due to the longer time required for aircraft to undergo regular maintenance as a result of a lack of staff, jets have been late in returning back to service, forcing the airline to arrange short-term wet-lease contracts for thirteen different aircraft from three airlines in Eastern Europe since March 23.

In its letter, the Croatian Pilots Union warned, "Due to a lack of mechanics, we will be in this state until May 15 when the last aircraft currently undergoing maintenance is expected to return to service, if there are no further delays. As a result, we have a significant number of flight cancellations. In addition, we have been forced to conclude extremely costly short-term aircraft leases. Due to the management's incompetence, we have lost significant revenue". It added, "Just in the last couple of days we have been forced to cancel eighteen flights, which is almost three per day. Since mid-March there have been only a handful of days when there were no cancellations".

The unions also noted that the recent sale of Croatia Airlines' assets, including its five weekly slot pairs at London Heathrow Airport, have left the company without the necessary resources to overcome its ongoing internal crisis. "Borrowing from the banks has also become difficult under extremely restrictive terms", the union added. Employees have urged the government to select the airline's new management team, which it has been delaying for over a year. "Due to a lack of institutional dialogue, we have been left with no other choice than to communicate our thoughts to the media before we undertake more drastic measures, which we would rather avoid", the letter concluded. Neither the management nor the Croatian government have responded to these latest claims. Croatia Airlines pilots are currently in talks over the future of their collective bargaining agreements after deferring industrial action, which was planned over the 2017 summer season, in order to allow for further negotiations to take place. Croatia Airlines posted strong financial results in 2017, primarily on the back of the sale of its assets.