Saturday, April 18, 2015

Pristina awaits Macedonia subsidy ruling

Kosovo confident in favourable outcome against Macedonian airline subsidies

Kosovo is awaiting the outcome of a European Commission investigation into a complaint it lodged late last year over subsidies provided by the Macedonian government to low cost airlines, primarily Wizz Air, at Skopje Alexander the Great Airport. The Kosovo Civil Aviation Authority says the incentives have created unfair competition in the region. The CEO of Limak Kosovo Airport, the operator of Pristina Airport, Haldun Fırat Kokturk, says, “We as an airport operator can compete with another airport operator - competition is normal, it is good. But we cannot compete with a government. If the European Commission tells the Macedonian government that these incentives are permitted then we will approach the Kosovo government to say, if the Macedonian government is doing this - can we do the same”? Pristina Airport itself is offering a range of subsidies to stimulate traffic and passenger numbers, however, these are being offered by the airport’s operator, rather than the government, as is the case in Macedonia.

The Macedonian Ministry for Transport and Communication says its incentives policy has been carefully analysed and is in accordance with EU rules and regulations. It adds that in 2012 the Kosovan Ministry for Infrastructure was sent additional information on the subsidy policy which, it says, respects all international legal procedures. The Macedonian government launched a three-year subsidy scheme in 2012. It has proved successful with Wizz Air opening a base at Skopje Airport, which has in turn led to significant passenger and traffic growth. The government has offered fresh subsidies this year which has led to Wizz Air’s decision to base a third aircraft in the Macedonian capital, launch a handful of new routes and introduce services from Ohrid as well.

Earlier this year, Wizz Air said that the subsidies it receives from the Macedonian government are in line with EU regulations. “Financial support is provided on a transparent basis through public tenders. We are fine and we have no issues with Brussels”, Wizz Air’s CEO, Jozsef Varadi, said. However, the head of Pristina Airport insists, “In this competitive environment we cannot catch significant growth without the support of the government. We can do our best with incentives, but in the end the government has to support it”. The Kosovo Civil Aviation Authority is basing its complaint against Macedonia on the Common Aviation Area Agreement, which the European Union has signed with countries in the Western Balkans. According to the Agreement, “This aviation area implies the adoption of the part of the Acquis containing the European aviation rules … The processes of market opening and regulatory convergence take place in parallel in order to promote fair competition and the implementation of common high safety, security, environmental and other standards”.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Banja Luka Airport in talks with low cost airlines

Banja Luka Airport eyes low cost flights

Banja Luka Airport is in talks with several low cost airlines over the launch of potential flights to the city. The head of the Aerodromi Republike Srpske airport operator, Miroslav Janjić, says, “We are in talks. At the moment we can not speculate on whether they will result in an agreement but we will continue to hold talks and offer necessary economic and financial support”. Mr. Janjić notes that discussions with low cost airlines are much more “complicated, difficult and will last longer” than those with traditional full fare carriers. The head of the operator did not wish to specify the names of the no frills companies which are currently negotiating with the airport but added, “Talks are being held and we will look to finalise them soon”.

Banja Luka Airport has struggled to attract airlines and sustainable routes for years. It is currently served only by B&H Airlines, which maintains flights to Zurich, and Air Serbia, which runs services from Belgrade, although the number of flights have been reduced from daily last summer to five services per week this year. Since 2013, the airport has been in drawn out negotiations with Wizz Air. Two years ago, the Minister for Transport and Infrastructure of the Entity of Republika Srpska, Nedeljko Čubrilović, commented on the talks with Wizz Air by saying, “Unfortunately we were unable to agree to the terms set by the airline. It’s not as it looks. They aren’t coming here to give us anything, they want to come here to take something. During the talks they were very difficult over handling prices so we would not benefit from them in any single way”. On this occasion, Wizz Air did not wish to confirm whether they have again entered talks with Banja Luka Airport. However, the low cost airline, which will open a base in Tuzla this June, recently told EX-YU Aviation News, “Wizz Air is very well suited for that environment. The country [Bosnia and Herzegovina] is absolutely right for our business plan. We are highly excited for Bosnia and Herzegovina and hope to replicate the success in Tuzla across the country”.

Over the past few years, Banja Luka Airport has been in talks with several other airlines, such as Aegean from Greece and Austrian over potential flights to Bosnia and Herzegovina’s second largest city. Late last year, the Austrian Ambassador to Bosnia and Herzegovina said, "We will try to connect airports from Austria with Banja Luka. We have indentified that Banja Luka Airport has the potential to develop and serve the entire region”. Austrian ran services to Banja Luka during the 1990s. Switzerland’s Edelweiss Air initially announced flights to the city from July this year but then suspended ticket sales only two months later. Edelweiss was to operate services from Zurich with an Airbus A320, each Monday and Friday.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Belgrade Airport expansion to begin this summer

Belgrade Airport presents expansion project

Belgrade Nikola Tesla Airport has today presented its official expansion project which has been described as the biggest single investment in Serbian transport infrastructure in 2015. Plans were revealed at a press conference at the International Construction Fair in Belgrade. In a statement, the airport said, “The investment is worth twenty million euros and will be undertaken by local construction companies. It includes the expansion of the airport and the construction of air bridges. This project will result in a 35% increase in capacity and revenue”. The airport will finance the project independently from its own finances.


New look Terminal 1

According to the management's plans, the airport will be expanded by 11.000 square meters with work on the overhaul of its Terminal 1 building, used primarily by low cost and charter airlines, to begin first. The reconstruction of the terminal, built in 1962, will be divided into several phases. Passport and immigration control will be reintroduced at the terminal, which has, for the past several years, been used solely for check-in purposes. Work will be carried out throughout the summer season but the airport says the refurbishment will not affect customers. The completion date has been set for September this year.


Terminal 2 extension

Some fifteen million euros will be invested in the expansion of the airport's Terminal 2 building. Four additional gates will be added to the existing seven at the "C" concourse area. Of the additional 11.000 square meters, some 3.000 will be used up as commercial space. The expansion of Terminal 2 is set to be completed by October next year. In addition, next week, the airport will begin tender procedures for the construction of a  deicing platform, which will be located next to the taxiway near the Terminal 2 gate area. The airport will also invest in a new base for its fire department.

Deicing platform


The construction of a new second runway has been ruled out for at least the next decade. The airport will hire a consultant through an international tender this year in order to determine how to overhaul its runway without its airport's closure. Some 45 million euros are expected to be invested in the runway's refurbishment. Previously, the Acting Managing Director of Belgrade Airport, Saša Vlaisavljević, said, “In 2016 and 2017 we will overhaul the runway. Last time work was carried out on the runway was in 2005”.


2030 development plan

The airport's long term plans, scheduled for completion by 2030, are largely based on a 2003 masterplan for the its development. It includes the construction of a new terminal, second runway, hotel and rail links to the city

Belgrade Nikola Tesla Airport projects it will handle between 5 to 5.5 million passengers this year following a record breaking 2014. “We are reaching the upper limits of our capacity, so we have to invest in infrastructure”, the head of the airport said recently. He added, "We are expanding our annual capacity to 7/7.5 million passengers. Belgrade welcomed 4.638.194 passengers in 2014, over one million more than the year before.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Zagreb, Skopje and Ljubljana see strong March

Ljubljana’s passenger decline ends as Zagreb and Skopje see double digit growth

The airports in Zagreb, Skopje and Ljubljana have all recorded strong passenger growth during the month of March. While Ljubljana managed to end its recent poor run of results, it was again outperformed by Skopje Airport.

Zagreb Airport continued its passenger growth streak by welcoming 185.693 travellers, an increase of 12.3% compared to the same month last year. The number of operated flights also increased, from 3.030 last March to 3.232 this year, or an increase of 6.7%. The growth comes primarily as a result of foreign carriers, with Swiss International Air Lines to become the latest to launch services to the Croatian capital today. Meanwhile, from June 30, Qatar Airways will boost its operations to Zagreb, increasing frequencies from its current five weekly services to daily flights. Other arrivals this year will include SkyGreece Airlines from Toronto on a seasonal summer basis, Brussels Airlines, additional summer charters by Korean Air from Seoul and Air Croatia, which continues to introduce new routes. During the first quarter, Croatia’s busiest airport handled 478.193 passengers, up 11.3% on the same period in 2014.

MonthPAXChange (%)
JAN150.667 11.0
FEB141.833 10.5
MAR185.693 12.3

Skopje Alexander the Great Airport posted impressive figures again as it continues to benefit from Wizz Air’s new routes and added capacity from last summer, which are set to further increase this July. Skopje Airport welcomed 95.811 travellers, an impressive increase of 25.1%. As a result, Macedonia’s busiest airport continued its dominance over its traditionally busier counterpart Ljubljana. During the first three months of the year, Skopje Airport has seen 264.165 travellers pass through its doors, up a notable 29.3% on 2014. The number of flight operations increased 17%. Meanwhile, Macedonia’s second international airport, Ohrid, handled 4.235 passengers during the first quarter, up 15.1%.

MonthPAXChange (%)
JAN88.275 41.6
FEB80.079 22.8
MAR95.811 25.1

Ljubljana Jože Pučnik Airport’s passenger decline came to an end in March, with the airport recording sound growth figures. Slovenia’s busiest airport welcomed 90.902 travellers, an improvement of 5.3%. The result comes despite a significant reduction in the number of operated flights, which stood at 2.471 this March, down 10.3% on the same month last year. Despite the slow start to the year, Ljubljana Airport anticipates a strong year. In late March, Swiss introduced flights from Zurich, with Ljubljana Airport’s Commercial Director, Janez Krašnja, confident the new service will add 13.000 passengers per year at Slovenia’s busiest airport. During the first quarter, Ljubljana Airport handled 236.263 travellers, which is still slightly down on last year, by 0.2%. The number of operated flights for the three months stood at 6.636, down 5%.

MonthPAXChange (%)
JAN73.096 2.9
FEB72.265 3.8
MAR90.902 5.3