|B&H Airlines fighting for survival|
The acting CEO of B&H Airlines, Amir Jažić, has painted a bleak prospect of the carrier’s chances for survival, stating he fears it’s “too late to save the company”. In a statement to the Al Jazeera Balkans network, Mr. Jažić notes that the airline is facing significant financial problems with debt owed to HETA and the Hypo Alpe Adria Bank for the financial lease of its two ATR 72 aircraft, as well Sarajevo Airport and other local and international suppliers. “We can’t get any funds from the government because they don’t have any. I fear it is too late to save the company. It is just a matter of whether we will be around to see the formation of the new government”. Three months on from the October general elections, the formation of new governments at different levels in Bosnia and Herzegovina is still ongoing. The CEO adds, “The minister [for Transport and Communication] probably can’t wait for the government to be formed so this situation can be resolved. I met with representatives from Sarajevo Airport a few days ago, after insisting on talks for two months. They offered us a new agreement for 2015 which is beyond logic since prices for services have increased and there are many new services which didn’t exist before. They want guarantees that we will be able to pay for these services but we cannot give them such assurances”.
B&H Airlines’ financial problems have been aggravated by a recent government order, made on January 7, for the carrier to repay the state over 800.000 euros in passenger taxes, which were initially intended for the airline and its development. Furthermore, one of B&H’s two ATR 72 aircraft is grounded in Germany where it was undergoing maintenance. However, B&H, whose accounts have now been frozen, does not have the required 200.000 euros to pay for the servicing of the aircraft. Recently, the trade union representing B&H Airlines employees said that many of the airline’s staff have not been paid in months and are holding the Minister for Transport and Communication, Enver Bijedić, personally accountable of neglect, lobbying in favour of competitors such as Wizz Air and Turkish Airlines, and unprofessionalism.
The President of B&H Airlines’ Supervisory Board, Goran Jovanović, says the situation at the carrier is “alarming”. “We are dealing with a thousand things at once. We pay the highest price for fuel in Europe and we have a complicated relationship with Sarajevo Airport, just to name a few. The current situation is incomprehensible and we will soon know how this story will end”, Mr. Jovanović says. He adds that B&H must continue flying because any stoppage would lead to bankruptcy. “We cannot stop flying until this situation is resolved, because we would immediately loose our license. It is a very complicated procedure. We are currently working on our summer season schedule. We have 200 charters planned over the summer but I don’t even know if I should approve them. The company is on life support”, Mr. Jovanović says.
B&H Airlines was initially founded as Air Bosna in 1994, but ceased operations in 2003 due to mounting debt. Two years later the Federation government revived the carrier and renamed it B&H Airlines. Turkish Airlines purchased a 49% stake in the carrier in 2008 with a promise to expand its fleet and operations. However, in 2012, it withdrew from B&H’s ownership structure, citing problems with the government.