|Turkish Airlines a favourite as Macedonia searches for a national carrier|
Turkish Airlines is the frontrunner in becoming Macedonia’s new national carrier. It comes a week after the Macedonian government announced plans to invite an established foreign airline to become the country’s new flag carrier. In 2012, the Macedonian Civil Aviation Agency confirmed Turkish Airlines had been granted “regular carrier” status, thus awarding it numerous privileges over other airlines operating to the country. Turkish Airlines, which runs double daily flights to Skopje, has exclusivity over other airlines in selecting destinations as well as landing and handling fee exemptions at Skopje and Ohrid airports, according to the Agency. Turkish Airlines is the only to have been granted the status of a regular carrier in Macedonia since the demise of MAT Macedonian Airlines in 2009.
The Turkish-based TAV, which runs Macedonia’s two international airports, is believed to be strongly lobbying for Turkish to base an aircraft in Skopje. The CEO of TAV Airports, Sani Sener, has said the company was not looking at establishing its own airline. However, Mr. Sener added, “At the moment, and for the foreseeable future at least, we prefer cooperating with airlines to increase passenger traffic at our airports. Indeed, we have an excellent relationship with Turkish Airlines, a major European carrier that is growing at an impressive pace”. Earlier this year, TAV said Macedonia was in need of a national airline if its airports are to maintain the impressive passenger growth they have seen so far this year. The growth is being attributed primarily to low cost airline Wizz Air which has two aircraft based in Skopje.
The Macedonian Civil Aviation Agency has previously said Turkish Airlines would easily receive a permit to become the country’s national carrier. “Turkish Airlines would have to apply for a permit, submit a business plan and choose whether they would want to be a charter or scheduled carrier. Turkish already operates services to Macedonia and is a renowned world carrier. They have a strong presence in the region as well”, the former head of the Agency, Zoran Kristevski, said. He added that if Turkish Airlines were to apply for national carrier status, the Agency would follow European Union regulations and procedures. In May, Turkish Airlines ruled out any interest in acquiring stakes in carriers in the former Yugoslavia following its experience with B&H Airlines several years ago and said it prefers organic growth to equity investments.