|Wizz Air handles close to half a million passengers on Skopje flights|
Wizz Air has seen its passenger numbers soar at Skopje Alexander the Great Airport this year after basing a second aircraft in the city and introducing four new routes. The low cost carrier handled 469.227 passengers on its flights to and from Macedonia during the first ten months of the year, up over 40% on 2013. Wizz has already welcomed more passengers on board its Skopje flights by the end of October than it did for the whole of last year when it saw 358.003 travellers. The airline’s spokesman, Daniel De Carvlaho, says, “Wizz Air has constantly expanded its network from Macedonia since it started operating in the country in 2012. Wizz Air is dedicated to further expanding its Macedonian network, which will lead to the creation of new jobs and the development of the tourism sector”. Mr. Carvlaho adds, “Wizz has directly created fifty new jobs in the country and indirectly contributed to the creation of a number of jobs at the airport and in the hospitality industry”.
However, Wizz Air’s success in Macedonia does come at a price. In 2012, the government concluded a three year contract under which the state has provided the airline with a one off payment of 40.000 euros each for the introduction of flights to Basel, Bergamo, Dortmund, Eindhoven, Malmo and Memmingen. A further payment of 30.000 years was given for the launch of flights to Beauvais, Charleroi, Cologne, Gothenburg, Frankfurt Hahn and Stockholm. The government has also forked out an additional nine euros for each departing passenger in the first year of operations, eight in the second and seven in the third year. Despite the subsidies, the government believes the return of such an investment will be much greater than the initial cost. Kosovo recently accused the Macedonian government of creating unfair competition in the region through its subsidy policy and has lodged a complaint with the European Commission.
Wizz Air now holds a commanding 45.5% market share in Macedonia. In comparison, the low cost airline handled 326.960 passengers on its Belgrade flights during the first nine months of the year and just over 50.000 passengers on its Ljubljana services. Furthermore, it estimates it will handle 153.000 travellers in and out of Tuzla this year. With its subsidy scheme coming to an end in July 2015, the Macedonian government has called on no frill airlines to apply for state support for next year through an international tender. Last year, low cost airlines handled 440.127 passengers to and from Skopje Airport, a massive increase of 240% compared to the year before.