|Qatar Airways Chairman to visit Sarajevo|
A delegation of political and business leaders from Qatar, among which is Qatar Airways Chairman, his Excellency Ali Shareef Al Emadi, will be attending the upcoming Sarajevo Business Forum taking place on May 14 and 15 in the Bosnian capital. The visit by the high ranking delegation has raised speculation by local press that the Qatari national carrier could either launch flights to Sarajevo in the near future or possibly acquire a minority stake in B&H Airlines. The visit comes only weeks after Qatar Airways CEO, Akbar Al Baker, said the airline is again pursuing acquisitions in foreign carriers after being offered to invest in the likes of Olympic and Jat Airways in the region.
Despite its small size, B&H Airlines has managed to garner interest from foreign carriers on several occasions. Prior to Turkish Airlines relinquishing its shares in B&H, Royal Jordanian Airlines also bid for the Bosnian carrier as well as a consortium of companies from Malaysia. In addition, Libya’s Buraq Air showed strong interest in B&H last year. The Federation government of Bosnia and Herzegovina is desperately looking to offload a minority stake in its national airline to a foreign investor and has been on the lookout for a strategic partner.
Sarajevo Airport does not have scheduled, year-round, flights to the Middle East. Currently, the Lebanese national carrier MEA operates seasonal services from Beirut to the Bosnian capital while there are also charter flights to Sarajevo from Kuwait City during the peak of the summer season. In late 2012, low cost airline Flydubai announced plans to launch two weekly flights to Sarajevo from April 2013. Ultimately, plans for the service were shelved in early 2013 with the airline citing crew duty times as the reason for the route’s cancelation. Qatar Airways currently operates flights to both Zagreb and Belgrade in the former Yugoslavia. In a week’s time the airline will mark two years since it inaugurated flights to the Croatian capital via Budapest. Qatar enjoys fifth freedom rights between Budapest and Zagreb, allowing it to sell tickets between the two cities. Soon after, the Qatari national carrier launched flights to Belgrade via Ankara. Turkish authorities have not issued the airline fifth freedom liberties between its capital and Belgrade. Whether Sarajevo is next in Qatar Airways’ line of new destinations remains to be seen.