|"Sad day for passengers and tourism in Serbia", says Wizz Air|
Wizz Air has announced plans to scale down its operations out of Belgrade Nikola Tesla Airport after its expenses at Serbia’s busiest airport were increased by 40%. In a press release, the low cost airline says Belgrade has become the most expensive airport in its destination network. Wizz Air will suspend its two weekly flights to Charleroi as well as its two weekly seasonal summer service to Sanderfjrod in Norway as of May 6. All passengers who have purchased tickets with the carrier for travel after the termination date will be issued a full refund.
Wizz Air will now serve ten destinations out of the Serbian capital but will cut down on existing frequencies. In addition, the no frills airline will move one of its two Airbus A320s based in Belgrade to Riga. Wizz Air’s Executive Vice President, John Stephenson said, “It is a sad day for passengers and tourism in Serbia. We believe low fares are beneficial to Serbia’s aviation industry, but, unfortunately, Belgrade Airport does not share that belief. As one of the most expensive airports in Europe, it should work to stimulate low cost travel instead of unfairly protecting Etihad/Air Serbia which aims to create a monopoly”. Mr. Stephenson adds that Wizz Air was hoping to boost its operations out of Belgrade and is ready to do so if “Belgrade Airport reduces its costs and becomes competitive with other cheaper airports in the region”.
Earlier this year the Serbian government launched an investigation into alleged benefits Wizz Air received from Belgrade Airport. Reportedly, it discounted passenger taxes, handling, landing and service fees for the low cost airline over the past three years. According to earlier media reports, Wizz Air saved 5.4 million euros at Belgrade Airport since 2011, including a 20% discount for using terminal one, a 45% discount on handling and infrastructure use, 30% reduction on landing, 100% discount on the use of air bridges, 30% reduction on parking and lighting, 45% off for night time handling and a 45% discount on using airport infrastructure at night time. As EX-YU Aviation News learns, Wizz Air was recently informed it would have to pay service fees in full as is the case with other airlines operating from the airport.
|Wizz Air booming in Skopje|
Wizz Air is Serbia’s second busiest airline, handling 480.000 passengers to and from Belgrade Airport last year. In the first two months of 2014, Wizz Air welcomed just over 59.000 passengers on its flights to and from the Serbian capital, or an increase of 24% compared to the same period last year. In stark contrast, the low cost airline launched several new routes out of Skopje over the past few days, which now becomes its largest base in the former Yugoslavia.