|Wizz Air records Belgrade passenger growth in spite of reduced operations|
Low cost airline Wizz Air has recorded an increase in passenger numbers at Belgrade Nikola Tesla Airport during the first half of the year despite a spat over fees and charges, which have seen it steadily reduce operations from the Serbian capital since May. The budget carrier handled 217.978 travellers on flights to and from its Belgrade base, up 13.6% compared to the same period last year. As a result, Wizz Air maintains its position as the second busiest airline in Serbia ahead of Lufthansa (down 8.4% on last year) and Montenegro Airlines (down 7.5%). However, the no frills airline has seen its passenger share decline slightly from 12.7% in the first half of 2013, to 11% this year.
Over the past six months, Wizz Air has been involved in a much publicised quarrel with both Belgrade Airport and the Serbian government over fees, benefits and protectionism. The airline cancelled its flights from Belgrade and Charleroi in May and rebased one of its two Airbus A320s from Belgrade to Riga. However, Wizz Air has introduced new flights to Larnaca, which are to be maintained during the winter season as well. In April, the airline said the Serbian capital had become the most expensive in its network and announced a cut in capacity of 130.000 seats during the year with 700 fewer flights operated this year as a result of the airport’s decision to increase fees. Earlier this month, the airline said it was monitoring the situation in Belgrade, noting its continued presence in the city has been put into doubt and that its growth plans for the country have been undermined.
Wizz Air opened its first operating base in the former Yugoslavia in Belgrade in 2010. Last year it handled 480.000 passengers to and from the city. The airline has gone on to open a base in Skopje as well, which has now surpassed Belgrade in both network and fleet size. The low cost airline is now considering basing an aircraft in Tuzla in Bosnia and Herzegovina and launching up to seven new routes from the city, which could further affect its operations in Serbia.