|Government to save B&H as debt reaches thirteen million euros|
The Federation government of Bosnia and Herzegovina has said it will provide financial assistance to its debt-stricken carrier, B&H Airlines, following a meeting in Mostar earlier this week. In a statement, the outgoing Minister for Transport and Communication, Enver Bijedić, said, “We have a very complex situation as several international suppliers have blocked B&H Airlines’ accounts. The debt owed to HETA and the Hypo Alpe Adria Bank for the financial lease of two ATR 72 aircraft, acquired under unfavourable terms in 2005, now amounts to 7.5 million euros”. Minister Bijedić added that the two turboprops will be owned by the Hypo Leasing group once the financial lease expires at the end of this year. In addition, B&H also owes Sarajevo Airport 3.5 million euros and is in need of a further 200.000 euros for the maintenance of one of its ATR 72 aircraft, which has been grounded in Germany for several weeks.
The Federation government will discuss ways to reprogram B&H’s debt towards Sarajevo Airport and HETA at a meeting next week in order to unblock the airline’s accounts. Furthermore, the government will urgently seek funds to service B&H’s grounded aircraft, however, the Ministry warns it will be “very difficult to find such means”. The CEO of B&H Airlines, Amir Jažić, said, “The Federation government of Bosnia and Herzegovina is B&H’s sole owner and we hope it will do its utmost in order to save this state-owned company”. The President of B&H Airlines’ Supervisory Board, Goran Jovanović, said earlier that 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 said.
B&H Airlines has been plagued by flight cancellations in recent weeks as one of its aircraft has been out of service. Furthermore, the airline’s summer season operations have been compromised due to its inability to sign business contracts worth over four million euros, including an agreement for 200 summer charters, new services to Podgorica and Skopje and a one-year business arrangement with Air Serbia. The Prime Minister of the Federation, Nermin Nikšić, says B&H Airlines won’t be able to survive in the long-term if it does not find a strategic partner. 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.