The year that was2009 was a difficult year in aviation due to the persistent global financial downturn that affected passenger numbers and income. This is a short recount of how the national carriers in the former Yugoslavia performed:
Adria entered the year knowing that it would be difficult to reproduce results achieved in 2008, particularly in the first half of the year. In 2008 Slovenia was overseeing the presidency of the European Union and thus business travel was significantly increased. Adria’s passenger figures fell on average by 18% in 2009, but Tadej Tufek, Adria’s CEO said it would be more reasonable to compare the 2009 result with that of 2007. Slovenia was the first country of the former Yugoslavia to enter recession forcing Adria to cancel planned services to Sofia. Nevertheless, in February the airline received a new CRJ900 and announced a fleet renewal programme which will see the airline receive up to 3 Airbus A319s by 2013.
As 2009 drew to a close, Adria announced that it will commence 6 weekly flights to Belgrade in March of 2010 and posted its first profit of the year in the third quarter of 2009. On January 1, 2010 the airline became a full member of Star Alliance.
B&H Airlines started the year off optimistically. Being purchased by Turkish Airlines in late 2008 the airline announced a new fleet and new destinations. The national carrier of Bosnia and Herzegovina received its first jet engine aircraft, a Boeing B737-400, on May 10. With enthusiasm the airline announced new flights to Vienna, Prague, Berlin, Copenhagen, Stockholm, Gothenburg and Dusseldorf. However, this hasty expansion led to the termination of flights to Prague and Berlin due to poor interest. Similarly, newly introduced flights to Podgorica were also cancelled.
On the other hand, B&H Airlines managed to secure an increase in passenger numbers. In November it was announced that B&H would return the Boeing B737-400 in exchange for 2 Boeing B737-700s, one expected to arrive later this month and the other in March. The airline also announced it would begin services to Amsterdam in 2010.
Once again, Croatia Airlines ended 2009 as the airline with the most passengers handled out of all the EX-YU airlines. Its passenger figures did decline but not as much as expected. Still, the airline’s finances are far from positive and Croatia Airlines ended 2009 with the greatest financial loss out of all of the EX-YU carriers. In June the airline welcomed its 3rd and 4th Dash 8 Q400 jets. Near the end of the year Croatia Airlines listed flights to Belgrade in its 2010 summer season timetable. In spite of this, shortly after the flights disappeared and the future service to Belgrade, expected to commence on May 1, is under question. Croatia Airlines will inaugurate flights between Zagreb and Athens in 2010.
During 2009, Croatia Airlines celebrated its 20th birthday. Yesterday the airline became a full Star Alliance member.
Jat did not get an easy ride in 2009. From the beginning of the year the airline began recording immense passenger declines. Despite fleet renewal announcements the airline so desperately needs, Jat’s management was dismissed in July and a new one brought it. The previous management was blamed for signing damaging agreement with Montenegro Airlines that saw Jat practically disappear on the lucrative services to Podgorica and Tivat. The airline’s new CEO drafted a 2010 recovery plan which will see the airline order 2 Boeing B737-700 aircraft. In October, Jat was paralysed for a week by a strike by its technical division, Jat Tehnika, which was resolved with the help of the Government. The airline was battered by the press in the summer when photos of unscrewed bolts on one of Jat’s aircraft appeared.
In 2009 Jat began services to Abu Dhabi and began refurbishing it’s on board cabins. The airline stumbled on a major hurdle when it announced it would resume flights to Dubrovnik after nearly 2 decades but in the end decided to back away from these plans. Jat has announced that it will begin flights to Portorož in April of 2010 and offer free travel insurance to all its passengers travelling to countries of the European Union. Jat faces extreme competition from other airlines in 2010, with many announcing new flights to Belgrade.
The Montenegrin national carrier had been the quiet achiever of the year. The airline managed to increase passenger numbers, largely thanks to its domination on services heading to Belgrade. During the first few months of the year the airline was constantly plagued by smaller safety incidents reported by the local media. In 2009, the airline redesigned its website and began services to Copenhagen and Skopje. On May 23, Montenegro Airlines received its 2nd Embraer E195 jet and modified its final order for this aircraft to an E175 jet.
Talk of Montenegro Airlines’ privatisation began in 2009. A tender to find a privatisation advisor has been opened while El Al Israel Airlines seems to be the most interested candidate for the purchase. In July, power abuse chargers were laid on the airline’s CEO for grand corruption. The airline celebrated 15 years of existence and announced plans of creating a Serbian based airline in 2010.
MAT’s demise in 2009 was imminent as the airline’s debts mounted. MAT was officially grounded in April and criminal charges were laid on the airline’s management for continuing to sell tickets. That same management, together with the Serbian tour operator Kontiki, is now hoping to open Mat Airways in March 2010. It will take over the Boeing B737-500 aircraft previously operated by MAT.
MAT Macedonian Airlines is expected to begin bankruptcy procedures in a few weeks.
2009 poll results
· Most convenient airport
1. Ljubljana Jože Pučnik (37%)
2. Belgrade Nikola Tesla (33%)
3. Sarajevo (13%)
· Will MAT be flying by the end of 2009?
1. No (61%)
2. Yes (39%)
· Best 2009 summer schedule
1. Jat Airways (56%)
2. Adria Airways (17%)
3. Croatia Airlines (11%)
· Should El Al take over Montenegro Airlines?
1. No (67%)
2. Yes (33%)
· Best solution for MAT
1. Jat Airways takeover (55%)
2. Takeover by an airline other than Jat (21%)
3. Takeover by Macedonian Government (11%)
· Which airline will be most affected by financial crisis?
1. Croatia Airlines (35%)
2. Adria Airways (35%)
3. Jat Airways (14%)
· Which airline should be first to fly to US/Canada?
1. Jat Airways (60%)
2. Croatia Airlines (20%)
3. B&H Airlines (10%)
· Best website
1. Jat Airways (45%)
2. Adria Airways (23%)
3. B&H Airlines (17%)
· Should Macedonian Government create new national carrier?
1. Yes (55%)
2. No (45%)
· Will Jat’s recovery plan be successful?
1. No (67%)
2. Yes (33%)
· Which airline had the most successful 2009?
1. Jat Airways (25%)
1. Jat Airways (25%)
2. None of the EX-YU airlines (23%)
3. Adria Airways (17%)