No subsidies - no flights
Montenegro Airlines will suspend flights from Podgorica to Niš from October 1 since city authorities have not paid 469.411 euros in subsidies owed to the flag carrier. The debt stems from the period starting February 24 through to June 30. City authorities have assured that all outstanding debt will be paid soon in two instalments and that it will try to persuade the airport’s only customer to continue flying between the two cities throughout the 2012/13 winter season, which begins on October 28. Montenegro Airlines has terminated ticket sales for all of its flights to Niš after October 1.
The Montenegrin carrier launched flights from Podgorica to Niš Constantine the Great Airport in 2010. A total of forty seats are bought by city authorities on each flight to the tune of 199 euros per seat. If there are less than forty seats left on the flight, authorities only pay for the remaining unoccupied seats left on the Fokker F100, however, this has rarely been the case. Recently, Žarko Djurović, Montenegro Airlines’ regional manager for Serbia said, “The load factors for the Niš flights amount to less than 50%. Regardless, we expect for this route to continue operating and for numbers to improve”. The majority of passengers using the service transit through Podgorica and continue onwards to Western Europe.
Niš city authorities have drafted a new contract with Montenegro Airlines which would see the carrier operate five weekly flights between Podgorica and Niš and two weekly flights to Zurich, pending Swiss approval. However, in order for Montenegro Airlines to sign the agreement, outstanding debt must first be paid. Local authorities have subsidised other airlines in the past. The low cost Italian airline, Wind Jet, operated flights from Forli to Niš in return for subsidies of 1.1 million euros and the purchase of fifty seats per flight. In April 2013, Mistral Air will launch flights from Trieste to Niš, with the service to be subsidised by the European Union. In the first eight months of the year, Niš welcomed 18.376 passengers, an increase of 16% compared to the same period last year.