Monday, February 19, 2018

Air Serbia to undergo deep restructuring

Air Serbia will undertake wide-ranging restructuring in an attempt to boost its key performance indicators, as it struggles to keep a lid on costs, growing competition, an over-inflated workforce and the winding down of state subsidies. According to the daily "Danas", the company's interim CEO, Duncan Naysmith, has told employees in an internal memo that focus will be put on "net profit, the new fare structure, in-flight sales, additional services that bring in ancillary revenues, as well as other initiatives to boost efficiency". The so-called transformation will be managed by the executive management with the support of a newly established Transformation Office. As a result, the carrier will evaluate the success of all of its projects, programs, products and other initiatives.

The development comes several months after Air Serbia's part-owner, Etihad Airways, ordered the company to restructure and mirrors similar policies being put in place at both the Emirati carrier and another one of its equity partners Air Seychelles. Although there have been suggestions Etihad will disinvest from the Serbian carrier, the Abu Dhabi-based airline is expected to stay put at least until January 1, 2019 when its five-year investment and management agreement expires. Serbia's President, Aleksandar Vučić, recently held talks with the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and its de-facto ruler, Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, during which the two reviewed the expansion and diversification of the partnership, as well as its continuation. Prime Minister Ana Brnabić recently said the Emirati carrier would retain its 49% stake in Air Serbia, despite the ongoing cost cutting taking place at both airlines. A final decision on the partnership will likely rest on the success of the restructuring process taking place.

Air Serbia has remained silent on its operational and financial results for the previous year. The airline has taken steps towards restructuring its business by reducing its workforce in late 2017, with further layoffs expected this year, transforming into a hybrid carrier, consolidating its destination network, putting on sale non-airworthy general aviation aircraft and the retiring some of its ageing Boeing jets. Further changes to the fleet are expected in the coming months. Mr Naysmith said last week, "Since our first flight, our business has undergone many changes, but one thing has remained the same - our willingness to adapt, grow and innovate. It's through this spirit that we have recently launched our new fare structure, representing a fundamental shift in the way travellers can now personalise and tailor their journey with Air Serbia".

It will be up to the carrier's new CEO, to be named during the second quarter of 2018, as well as two of Air Serbia's shareholders to navigate the carrier's transformation just four years since its relaunch.

Tuzla negotiating two new Wizz routes


Tuzla Airport has held talks with Wizz Air for the introduction of two new routes from the city. It comes a month after the budget airline announced it would introduce flights from Vienna to Tuzla this April. "We are currently negotiating with Wizz Air and an agreement should be reach shortly", General Manager Rifet Karasalihović said, without disclosing the planned new routes. The low cost airline currently operates flights to thirteen destinations out of Tuzla, with Vienna to become its fourteenth. It has two Airbus A320 aircraft based in Bosnia and Herzegovina's third largest city.

Dubrovnik Airport runway overhaul advances


The overhaul of Dubrovnik Airport's runway and taxiways is progressing and on schedule to meet its mid-March deadline. The work, which began in December of last year, is part of the second phase of a multi million euro development project that will enhance the airport's handling capacity to approximately 3.98 million passengers per year. Other airside improvements will include the construction of two new rapid exit taxiways, the expansion of the western apron, as well as the construction of a new commercial aviation apron on the western side, a new east apron for general aviation and the development of aircraft maintenance and operation facilities, in addition to hangars. The entire project is scheduled for completion in 2020.

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.