|Wizz Air mulling Tuzla Airport base plans|
Wizz Air is considering launching up to seven new routes from Tuzla Airport as it contemplates opening up a base in Bosnia and Herzegovina’s third largest city. The additional flights could bring a further 100.000 passengers to Tuzla Airport on an annual basis. Wizz Air currently operates services from Malmo, Basel, Dortmund, Gothenburg, and Eindhoven to the Bosnian city. It inaugurated flights to Tuzla only last year. Last week officials from the airline met with the Federation Minister for Transport and Communication Enver Bijedić and representatives from both the Tuzla canton government and the airport to discuss the possibility of Wizz Air opening up a base in the city as well as payment options.
However, Wizz Air’s plans could be derailed by backroom politics. The head of Tuzla Airport, Esed Mujačić, was dismissed by the local government last week with a new CEO, Rifet Karasalihović, taking up the position. Mr. Karasalihović, a former part owner of cargo airline ICAR Air, has been accused of violating a United Nations arms embargo imposed on the Democratic Republic of Congo. In 2007, ICAR Air leased an Ilyushin Il-76 from Serbian cargo airline Air Tomisko, and smuggled arms into the Congo despite a United Nations ban on the export of arms and weapons to the country. For his part, the former CEO, Mr. Mujačić, said, “Interests of certain groups of people, who do not wish to see Tuzla Airport develop, such as the land transport lobby, are now being put in charge”.
Local media suggest that wrangling over the airport’s CEO could put off Wizz Air from plans to develop its network out of Tuzla. Furthermore, the possibility of increasing taxes at the airport fivefold could negatively impact on the budget carrier’s plans. Wizz Air is the only airline operating scheduled flights out of Tuzla and has brought the airport, which has struggled to attract any customers for years, back to life. In the first half of the year, Tuzla Airport handled 53.053 passengers, up 691% on the same period last year.