|State to provide financial assistance to low cost airlines in 2015|
The Macedonian government will continue subsidising low cost flights to the country into 2015 despite plans to create a national carrier. The Ministry for Transport and Communication confirmed that it had approved funds to subsidise budget carriers next year but did not specify the amount. The three-year subsidy scheme, launched in 2012, will end in July next year. The government will call for no frill airlines to apply for state support in 2015 through an international tender. The original scheme proved successful since Wizz Air set up a base at Skopje Airport, which has in turn led to significant passenger and traffic growth. Other low cost airlines which have launched flights to the country since the financial support was introduced include Pegasus Airlines and Flydubai.
This year the Macedonian government offered 4.9 million euros in subsidies to budget airlines as an incentive to launch new routes and increase frequencies on existing services. Airlines were offered a one-off 40.000 euro cash injection for each new route launched for the first six destinations. Each subsequent route launch received an additional 30.000 euro grant from the government. Airlines signing up to the subsidy scheme have also been rewarded for the number of passengers carried. The government subsidises carriers for each passenger flown with nine euros in the first year of operations, eight euros in the second year and seven in the third. Commenting on the financial assistance provided to low cost airlines, the Ministry for Transport and Communication said, “We plan to keep this policy in place as data shows that in the brief period since its introduction it has produced significant results”.
In 2013, low cost airlines handled 440.127 passengers to and from Skopje Airport, a massive increase of 240% compared to the year before. Of those, Wizz Air carried 358.003 passengers, followed by Pegasus Airlines with 57.075 and Flydubai with a further 25.049 travellers. Prior to the launch of the subsidy scheme there were almost no low cost airlines serving Macedonia. The head of the Macedonian Civil Aviation Agency, Dejan Mojsoski, recently said, “Interest from airlines to operate flights to Macedonia is growing, which indicates we are on the right path to creating a fast, efficient, safe and reliable air transport network, accessible to the general public”.