|Government provides renewed hope for struggling Niš Airport|
The Serbian government is looking to revive Niš Constantine the Great Airport in the country’s south-east as it continues to face a dire financial state and no customers. The Minister for Transportation, Construction and Infrastructure, Zorana Mihajlović, said Belgrade Nikola Tesla Airport, the Serbian Civil Aviation Directorate and the Serbia and Montenegro Air Services Agency will work together to find a viable solution for the airport which has struggled to attract airlines since its reopening ten years ago. Montenegro Airlines’ decision to suspend flights from Podgorica to Niš in October last year has left the airport without its only scheduled service. The carrier terminated its flights to Niš after the city was no longer able to pay subsidies and had accumulated significant debt towards the airline.
Speaking with the Minister for Transportation yesterday, the mayor of Niš, Zoran Perišić, said several low cost airlines have expressed their interest to fly to the city recently, however, the airport also faces technical shortcomings. A handful of airlines which have been approached to set up flights to Niš have rejected the offer until an instrumental landing system (ILS) is put in place at the airport. The Air Traffic Services Agency is responsible for its installation and the two sides are expected to cooperate in order to resolve the issue.
Niš Airport has struggled to attract airlines since it reopened for commercial use a decade ago. The low cost Italian airline, WindJet, operated flights from Forli to Niš in return for subsidies of 1.1 million euros and the purchase of fifty seats per flight by city authorities. Services were suspended after the financial incentives dried up and the city’s former mayor has since been arrested over the deal. More recently, Darwin Airline from Switzerland ran flights from Zurich and Geneva but the pricey tickets failed to attract passengers. Jat Airways, which operated flights from Constantine the Great Airport to several European cities suspended all services due to low profitability. Mr. Perišić noted that Air Serbia will not be flying from Niš as it has rendered flights from the city as unprofitable, following recent talks with local authorities. The talks were held with the Serbian national carrier for the airline to launch a late night service from Belgrade to Niš with a return flight to be operated early in the morning, giving passengers the opportunity to transit onto flights towards western Europe. Recently, the city attempted to revive talks with Montenegro Airlines over the carrier’s possible return to the airport, however, these too have failed. Niš Constantine the Great Airport is becoming extremely costly to run and maintain with the Serbian government now committed to finding a solution for the airport in order avoid its possible closure.