Pristina’s busiest airline goes bust
Belle Air Europe has suspended operations, a day after the airline issued a press release it was operating normally and planning future destinations. The Pristina based airline canceled most of its flights yesterday before officially announcing on Tuesday evening it was suspending all services. “Due to the general difficult economic situation, Belle Air Europe must temporarily suspend its flights”, the airline said. It comes only two days after its parent company, Belle Air from Tirana, halted all flights and grounded its fleet. Established in 2010, Belle Air Europe operated flights out of Pristina to Basel, Brussels, Dusseldorf, Malmo, Milan, Stuttgart, Venice and Verona and was planning to launch flights to Dortmund as well. In addition, it operated services out of Skopje too.
The downfall of Belle Air Europe will have an impact on Pristina Airport’s passenger numbers since it was the busiest carrier operating at the airport so far in 2013, ahead of Germanwings, Darwin Airline, Adria Airways and Turkish Airlines which came in at fifth place. It remains to be seen whether other airlines such as Slovenia’s Adria, which has its own base in Pristina, will boost its flight offering and take over Belle Air Europe’s position. Belle Air Europe had two aircraft, an Airbus A319 and an A320. Yesterday, the airline’s A319 operated its last service from Pristina to Basel, after which the aircraft was ferried to Ostrava in the Czech Republic and returned to its leaser.
In a message on its website, Albania’s Belle Air said, "We are obliged to temporarily suspend operations due to the general economic situation, the decline in the purchasing power, recession in the markets we operate to and due to the blockade of our bank accounts for over 18 days". Albania’s Economy Minister, Arben Ahmetaj, said the airline owes tax authorities 4.8 million euros. Hundreds of passengers have now been stranded in both Tirana and Pristina. Belle Air accounts for over 50% of all flights to and from the Albanian capital.