Montenegro Airlines’ Niš service in jeopardy
Montenegro Airlines has suspended sales of its Podgorica - Niš - Podgorica service for travel from April 1, the second time in several months. While there is still hope the route will continue operating throughout the summer, it will depend on whether the airline and city authorities can agree on adequate subsidy payments. In September, the Montenegrin carrier suspended ticket sales on the route as the city authorities had outstanding debt owing towards the airline. In the end, a new agreement was reached with Montenegro Airlines decreasing its frequencies from daily to five per week.
The Montenegrin carrier launched flights from Podgorica to Niš in 2010. The service is vital for the airport as it is not served by any other scheduled airline. The majority of passengers using the service transit through Podgorica and continue onwards to Western Europe. 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”. Montenegro Airlines has an average of forty passengers per flight on the route.
Niš Airport has struggled to attract airlines since it reopened for commercial use in 2004. 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 by city authorities. Flights were suspended after the financial incentive dried up and an investigation has been launched in to why so much money was spent on the service. More recently, Darwin Airline from Switzerland ran flights from Zurich and Geneva but the pricey tickets failed to attract passengers. Jat Airways, which operated flights from Constantine the Great Airport to several cities suspended all services several years ago due to low profitability. From April, Mistral Air will launch flights from Trieste to Niš, with the service to be subsidised by the European Union.