Government gives up on B&H Airlines
According to the “Dnevni Avaz” newspaper, the Federation government of Bosnia and Herzegovina has decided to shut down its national carrier B&H Airlines. Cabinet members of the Federation government are set to vote in favour of the airline’s closure as it can no longer support B&H which has accumulated significant debt for its relatively small size. The government forks out 3.5 million euros for the carrier on an annual basis. Dark clouds began to gather over the airline early last year when Turkish Airlines relinquished a 49% stake in the carrier, blaming the government for its inability to develop the Bosnian carrier. Similarly, the government has blamed Turkish Airlines for leaving B&H in a worse state then prior to the acquisition.
B&H Airlines has not commented on the news which has been circulated across other media in the region. The airline is still selling tickets and operating services normally. Recently, B&H was grounded for over a week after its bank accounts were frozen due to outstanding debt on loans taken out for the purchase of two ATR72s, only one of which is active in the B&H fleet. The Bosnian carrier has plans to lease a jet engine aircraft and launch flights to Skopje from May 1. A source from the Bosnian government told the “Avaz” newspaper that several airlines showed interest in taking a minority stake in the carrier late last year but all abandoned such plans once they saw the state B&H was in. Last week Turkish Airlines and B&H ended all cooperation after the Bosnian carrier ceased code sharing on Turkish Airlines flights to Istanbul.
B&H Airlines employs 108 people. It marks the second attempt at a national carrier in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Its predecessor, Air Bosna, operated services from 1994 until 2003 before it went bust due to outstanding debt. B&H Airlines launched flights in 2005. Besides Air Bosna, only two other national carriers from the former Yugoslavia have ceased operations. They are Palair Macedonian Airlines and MAT Macedonian Airlines.