|Fee increase could jeopardise Wizz Air operations in Tuzla|
The Tuzla Canton government has confirmed it is looking to increase fees and taxes for low cost airline Wizz Air which currently operates flights from five cities to the airport that previously struggled to attract any customers. The Minister for Transport in the Tuzla Canton government, Mustafa Isabegović, said over the weekend, “When an airport has its own market, we can say we want this and that, do you want to work with us or not”. The minister added, “We want Tuzla Airport to become a profitable business, as early as next year”. The government is looking at a fivefold increase in fees and charges. Both local authorities and the low cost airline have been locked in talks over the past week.
The news comes in the backdrop of Wizz Air’s recent decision to reduce operations from its Belgrade base as a result of a hike in fees. Only last week the budget carrier said in a statement, “The airline’s continued presence in Belgrade has been put into doubt earlier this year when it had to halve capacity following a significant increase in charges. This not only undermined our growth plans for the country, but also in the trust that Serbia is committed to fomenting low cost air travel”. Wizz Air launched flights to Tuzla, its only destination in Bosnia and Herzegovina, last year. Flights have proved successful so far with the airline steadily increasing its operations to the city over the past twelve months. However, it is unknown whether Wizz Air is subject to fees and charges and to what amount at Tuzla Airport.
The newly named acting CEO of Tuzla Airport, Rifet Karaselihović, said during the weekend, “We plan to expand our cooperation with Wizz Air as well as other airlines. We also want to establish regular charter flights to European destinations, primarily Vienna and Zurich. This government has requested for taxes to be increased for Wizz Air. Wizz Air has said it is not prepared for such a move and talks are continuing”. Mr. Karaselihović added the original contract signed with Wizz Air last year gives the government an opportunity to renegotiate fees after twelve months. “The year has passed”, Mr. Karaselihović said. Ahead of talks between the two sides last week, local authorities said Wizz Air could open a base in Bosnia and Herzegovina’s third largest city and launch up to seven new routes. However, the recently dismissed CEO of Tuzla Airport, Esed 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”. In the first half of the year, Tuzla Airport handled 53.053 passengers, up 691% on the same period last year, primarily as a result of Wizz Air flights.