|Belgrade Airport surpasses four million passenger mark|
Belgrade Nikola Tesla Airport today handled its four-millionth passenger, the first time it has done so in a single year since opening its doors in 1962. To mark the occasion, the Serbian Prime Minister, Aleksandar Vučić, as well as the airport’s acting CEO, Saša Vlaisavljević, welcomed the four-millionth traveler, Nikola Miljković (pictured below), flying out on Air Serbia's flight to Banja Luka. Mr. Miljković received two free return tickets to any of Air Serbia's destinations and a business class voucher at Belgrade Airport. So far this year, the former Yugoslavia’s busiest airport has seen unprecedented growth, averaging over 30%. It has already handled 12% more passengers than it did for the whole of 2013, making it one of the fastest growing capital city airports in Europe this year. The increase is primarily attributed to Air Serbia, which now holds a 50% passenger share at the airport.
As the airport continues to break records, it also faces an uncertain future. Recently, the Serbian government confirmed it would give the airport up for concession next year. The Serbian PM noted, “The airport is now worth three times more than it was last year. Through a concession we can now get 500 to 600 million euros plus a billion euros in investments and a contract which can be terminated at any point”. Previously, investors from the United Arab Emirates, Greece, Russia and France expressed their interest in taking part in the concession. On the other hand, the government recently adopted plans for the public company running Belgrade Airport to be renamed to “Airports of Serbia” with more than twenty of the country’s smaller airports to be added to its managing portfolio. As a result, a future concessionaire would also have control of a majority of the country’s airport infrastructure.
Although passenger numbers in Belgrade have increased this year, the growth has come at a price for international airlines. Earlier this year the airport’s former CEO was arrested under suspicion for offering subsidies and benefits to Wizz Air, which has since cut down on its flights to the Serbian capital. Furthermore, several other foreign carriers have also reduced their flight offering including Lufthansa, Swiss International Air Lines, Austrian, Turkish Airlines and easyJet. Germanwings and Etihad Regional have suspended their flights altogether, although the latter only operated for several months. On the other hand, this year saw the arrival of TAP Portugal, as well as Vueling on a seasonal summer basis. Air Serbia has significantly increased its operations from its hub, bolstering passenger growth. Yesterday it announced the introduction of a second daily flight to Ljubljana and an increase in capacity on its Podgorica service starting December 12. In a statement, the airline’s CEO, Dane Kondić, said, “These increases in frequency and capacity demonstrate our ongoing commitment to add depth to our expanding network. More importantly, it’s about offering our business guests, those regularly commuting between major capital cities in the region, more attractive and convenient travel options”.