Friday, December 9, 2016

Macedonia to keep controversial airline subsidies

The Macedonian Minister for Transport and Communication, Vlado Misajlovski, has confirmed that the government will continue to subsidise low cost carriers, a move which will not sit well with authorities in Kosovo who say the policy has distorted competition in the region. Speaking in an interview, Mr Misajlovski said, "The benefits of the subsidies are visible and will continue. We have generated 34 direct routes, 24 of which are within Europe with very reasonable fares. We are currently negotiating with several other airlines which are interested in entering the Macedonian market, which will open up new destinations. As a result of this policy, passenger numbers at Skopje Airport have grown by 20% each month". The Macedonian government launched a three-year subsidy scheme in 2012. It proved successful with Wizz Air opening a base at Skopje Airport, which has in turn led to significant passenger and traffic growth. A fresh round of subsidies was offered last year, which led to Wizz Air basing a third aircraft in the Macedonian capital, launching a handful of new routes and introducing services from Ohrid as well.

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 program which, it says, respects all international legal procedures. However, the Kosovo Civil Aviation Authority has filed a complaint with the European Commission, while Pristina Airport says it is unacceptable for the state to provide these subsidies, and argues they should come in form of incentives from the airport operator itself. Mr Misajlovski notes that the policy has proven extremely successful. "In 2015 we had only ten to fifteen destinations. Now we have direct flights to London, Venice, Basel, Malmo, Eindhoven, Dortmund, Milan, Munich, Memmingen, Stockholm, Gothenburg, Brussels, Frankfurt, Cologne, Paris, Barcelona, Oslo, Nuremberg, Hamburg, Friedrichshafen, Berlin, Copenhagen, Bratislava, Zagreb, Geneva, Prague, Dubai, Belgrade, Ljubljana, Rome, Istanbul, Vienna and Zurich", the Minister said, adding that Wizz Air recently launched a new service to Hannover, while Qatar Airways will soon introduce flights from Doha.

Speaking to EX-YU Aviation News last week, a European Commission spokesperson said, "The Commission is aware of concerns raised about the financial incentives' scheme granted by the Government of Macedonia since 2012 to both domestic and foreign airlines to fly from the "Alexander the Great" Airport. It could possibly distort competition between airports in the area and indirectly between the airlines concerned. DG MOVE [Directorate-General for Mobility and Transport] is in contact with the competent Macedonian authorities to get all necessary information to examine this matter. This is taking place in the framework of the European Common Aviation Area Agreement, which was signed in 2006. While this Agreement is not in force yet, it is applied administratively". In its most recent annual progress report on Macedonia in the area of air transport, the European Commission said that "concerns about possible state aid in the aviation sector need to be addressed".

Belgrade to open de-icing platform in January


Belgrade Nikola Tesla Airport will complete work on a 21.000 square metre de-icing platform next month. Located near the entry-way to runway 12, the platform has the capacity to cater for two narrow-body or one wide-body aircraft, including the Airbus A380. The platform includes underground storage for de-icing fluid and can accommodate all necessary equipment. The de-icing platform will reduce holdover time, speed up aircraft movement and ease congestion at the gates. The project, valued at 4.8 million euros, also includes the extension of the taxiways which lead to the platform.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Zagreb Airport plans new development phase

Zagreb Airport has completed work on its new terminal building and is now preparing for a busy twelve months during which its focus will shift away from construction to attracting new airlines and more passengers in what it has dubbed as its "new phase of business operations". Several carriers have already announced plans to commence flights to the Croatian capital next year, while others will boost frequency and capacity. Zagreb Airport's busiest customer, Croatia Airlines, is considering introducing services to Moscow, Dublin, Oslo and Stockholm, with all four of its new seasonal routes launched this summer (Milan, Prague, Lisbon and St Petersburg) planned to resume. Despite the competition, CSA Czech Airlines will add a further three weekly flights between Prague and Zagreb next summer and operate the route daily.

Low cost carrier Monarch Airlines will launch year-round flights to Zagreb from London Gatwick and Manchester during 2017. The airline will operate three weekly services from Gatwick and two weekly from Manchester. Meanwhile, Beijing Capital Airlines is planning its arrival and is expected to run two flights per week from the Chinese capital starting next June. Furthermore, Zagreb Airport has said it is in talks with a European airline to commence operations to New York in 2017, which would mark the resumption of services between Croatia and the United States after 22 years. In addition, Swiss International Air Lines, which suspended operations to Zagreb at the start of the winter season, will resume operations to the city from March 26, 2017.

Several airlines have also announced plans to add frequencies to Zagreb including Air Transat, which will resume its seasonal service from Toronto earlier in 2017 and run two instead of one weekly flight, as well as Iberia which will add two extra departures each week from Madrid for a total of five. Other carriers that are said to be considering introducing flights to Zagreb include Finnair, while TAP Portugal, which had been mulling its return to the Croatian capital, has not included the city in its preliminary 2017 summer network. Meanwhile, Aegean Airlines has told EX-YU Aviation News that it currently has no plans to add Zagreb to its list of destinations, following rumours the Greek carrier was considering launching the service from Athens. However, this is subject to change.

Zagreb Airport's General Manager, Jacques Feron, recently said, "We are currently in talks with a number of airlines to introduce new routes, which is one of the ways we are preparing to transition into a new phase of our business operations, which will begin with the opening of the new terminal. An airport such as Zagreb cannot decide to become a hub on its own. It is airlines which make the airport a hub. At our concessionaire level, we shall accompany the airlines, and especially Croatia Airlines, in their strategies by being efficient and flexible". He added, "We are confident that with this new tool [terminal], we will definitely be able to improve the quality of services that are provided to all of our business partners". Zagreb Airport's new multi million euro terminal will undergo some eighty tests starting this January to trial different components of the structure. The facility is scheduled to officially open its doors to the public in March.

Photo credit: Petar Meznarek

Air Serbia A330 steps in for Air Seychelles


Air Serbia has assisted its Etihad Airways Partner, Air Seychelles, with the provision of a replacement Airbus A330 aircraft following a disruption to the island carrier’s Paris service. The Serbian airline operated a one-off flight from Seychelles’ main island of Mahé to Belgrade on Wednesday December 7 with more than 200 passengers on board the A330, who then connected onwards to Paris. The operation follows a similar deployment of Air Serbia’s Boeing 737-300 aircraft last month to another Etihad Airways Partner, Air Berlin. Air Serbia stepped in for Air Seychelles after the latter's aircraft sustained damage during the placement of the staircase for passenger disembarkation at Charles de Gaulle Airport. Air Serbia's CEO, Dane Kondić, said, “One of the key benefits of being an Etihad Airways Partner airline is being able to provide a range of support to one another, including the provision of aircraft when needed. It was fantastic to see our A330 land in JFK for the first time in June this year, and to now have our flagship jet operate a flight from the tropical island of Mahé is another special moment”. The two airlines both operate an Airbus A330 in an identical two-cabin configuration on long haul flights. Air Serbia's service to New York with its sole widebody aircraft was not affected during this period.

Air Serbia A330 at Seychelles Airport