|Low cost airline to launch Niš flights|
Niš Constantine the Great Airport, in Serbia’s south-east, is finalising negotiations with a low cost airline to launch flights to the city. The news comes just a month after the Serbian government designated Niš, which has had no scheduled flights for almost a year, as a future low cost hub. Bojan Avramović, the head of the Regional Development Agency has confirmed that talks with a low cost airline are in their final stages. While he refused to reveal the name of the airline, so as not to jeopardise the negotiating process, Mr. Avramović confirmed that flights will commence at the start of the 2015 summer season. “In the first half of September a signing ceremony will take place in Niš. By November we expect online ticket sales to begin with flights to be launched in late March next year”, Mr. Avramović said.
Over the past decade, Niš has been unsuccessfully served by the likes of Jat Airways, Montenegro Airlines, Darwin Airline and budget carrier WindJet, which operated flights from Forli to Niš. The city’s former mayor was subsequently arrested for signing a damaging subsidy agreement with the Italian low cost airline and is facing corruption charges. The head of the Regional Development Agency says no subsidies have been offered to the airport’s newest customer, rather, a single fee policy for all airlines has been created, be it low cost or full fare. “Over the past four months we have carried out all the necessary analysis and feasibility studies. Italy didn’t make the cut, let alone Forli. Italy is covered by flights to Switzerland while Malmo covers the Scandinavian region. The airline that will launch flights from Niš will operate to a main international airport in Europe from which the entire continent is served”. Mr. Avramović added that Niš Airport’s new fees and charges are competitive with those in Tuzla, Skopje and Sofia.
Questioned whether the national carrier Air Serbia will launch flights to the city, Mr. Avramović said, “We will see. Their ticket prices would be uncompetitive in Niš. Let us first start with this and then maybe Air Serbia will come too”. The Niš authorities are said to have been negotiating with two different low cost airlines, however, only one has been selected to launch flights to the city at first. Niš Airport was opened for commercial traffic in the late 1980s and served by JAT Yugoslav Airlines. The airport was hit on several occasions and damaged during the 1999 NATO bombing campaign of Yugoslavia. In 2003 it was reopened following extensive reconstruction and development. The Niš region has a catchment area of over one million people with a sizable Serbian diaspora originating from the country’s south-east.