|Experts back plans for new Macedonian national airline|
The Macedonian government’s plans to establish a new national carrier for the country is gaining support from within the industry which believes the move could lead to more competition, greater passenger growth, improved connectivity and employment. The government has previously said it will invite an established foreign airline to become the country’s new flag carrier. According to recent reports, Turkish Airlines is the frontrunner in the process. However, local experts believe the country should have its very own national airline, despite two previous failed attempts. With the development of Macedonia’s two international airports, which are managed by Turkey’s TAV Holdings, and with Skopje on course to handle over one million passengers this year, analysts believe the time is right to kick-start a new airline which could employ up to 150 people.
Adria Airways’ representative in Macedonia, Momir Rafajlovski, believes a Macedonian national carrier could work. “If the state were to subsidise the airline and find a professional management team, then I would support this idea. Investing 100 million euros fifteen years ago was unthinkable, but today the state budget could sustain this amount for an airline. Indirectly, the government would see a return on its investment through employment. The airline would employ 100 to 150 people including pilots and technical staff”, Mr. Rafajlovski says. The former CEO of Macedonia’s first national airline, Palair, Vanja Bitoljanu, believes a national carrier could take to the skies for less than the amount the government has invested in subsidies for low cost airline Wizz Air so far. “A national airline would bring benefits such as employment, GDP growth and new destinations which would improve ties. Establishing a national airline would cost less than the subsidies currently provided to Wizz Air”, Mr. Bitoljanu notes.
TAV has called on the Macedonian government to create a national airline on several occasions. The Deputy General Manager of TAV Macedonia, Murat Ornekol says, “TAV wants to compete with airports in neighbouring countries and attract foreign airlines. If you do not have a national carrier, then you miss out on the opportunity to attract airlines from other countries. This is because of commitments outlined in bilateral agreements. We are trying to attract foreign airlines to Macedonia and establish a national carrier, otherwise air traffic in the country will stall”, Mr. Ornekol warns.
The Macedonian government has already hired a consultancy firm to undertake an analysis of the market and determine whether well known airlines would be willing to set up operations as Macedonia’s flag carrier.