|Management and ownership issues affecting Belgrade Airport|
At a time when Belgrade Nikola Tesla Airport is experiencing strong growth and seeing record traffic, Serbia’s busiest airport faces many challenges in regards to its management and ownership. The airport’s CEO, Velimir Radosavljević, is set to be replaced by the end of the week and is being investigated over an alleged benefits deal with low cost airline Wizz Air, made in 2011, which, reportedly, was not approved by the supervisory board, as practice dictates. At the same time, the government is running late with the allocation of a dedicated passenger terminal for Air Serbia.
According to the Transaction Framework Agreement between Etihad Airways and the Government of Serbia (GoS) last year, “The GoS shall ensure that either Terminal 1 or Terminal 2 of Belgrade Airport, as the Parties may agree, is allocated to JAT for its exclusive use by no later than 1 January 2014. The GoS shall fund a portion of the costs of the refurbishment of Terminal 1 or Terminal 2, as the case may be, to a standard acceptable to JAT within 2 years of the date hereof, that is proportionate to the size of its shareholding in JAT after the completion of Etihad's acquisition of JAT shares:. The Framework Agreement also states, “The GoS shall ensure that space for a JAT lounge is allocated to JAT in Terminal 1 or Terminal 2 as the case may be, with sufficient capacity to meet its actual and projected business passenger requirements”.
Late last year, the Serbian government unveiled plans to grant Etihad a concession over Serbia’s busiest airport over the next twenty years under the condition it builds a new passenger terminal, runway, airport hotel and car park. The airport’s trade unions responded angrily to the proposal, arguing Etihad would have a complete monopoly over the Serbian aviation industry. However, it is believed the government will finalise the airport’s sale by the end of the year. Earlier last month, the Greek based Copelouzos Group expressed interest to purchase a stake in Belgrade Airport, which is one of Serbia’s most profitable state owned companies.
So far this year, Belgrade Airport has recorded unprecedented passenger growth of 30%. In addition, the airport is in the process of expanding and refurbishing its Terminal 2 facilities. Recently, the airport launched tender procedures for the construction of a hotel near the airport. Despite the added traffic, the airport says, “While the workload has been significantly increased over the past few months, all departments continue to carry out their duties successfully”.