|Belgrade on course to break million passenger mark in April|
Belgrade Nikola Tesla Airport has notched up its 23rd month of consecutive passenger growth. According to its latest figures, the airport saw its busiest March on record, welcoming 315.283 passengers, an increase of 11.6% compared to the same month last year. The number of flight operations to and from Serbia’s capital stood at 4.479, up from last year’s 4.209 flights, or an increase of 6.4%. The growth is being primarily driven by Air Serbia with the real test for the airport to come in April. Last year, Air Serbia introduced a range of new routes and increased operations compared to 2013 while this April the increase will be more modest. On the other hand, foreign carriers will be operating fewer flights.
Belgrade Airport is now on course to welcome its millionth passenger sometime in April. During the first quarter, the airport handled 888.477 travellers, an increase of 13.1% compared to the same period last year. The number of operated flights increased from 12.060 to 12.908. However, the most notable growth was recorded in the amount of handled cargo. The airport processed 2.512 tons of commercial cargo, up a significant 27%. In March alone the airport saw 1.109 tons of cargo, up 40.6%. Freighter flights operated by heavy aircraft such as the Boeing 747, Boeing 777 and the Airbus A330 have become a common sight at the airport lately.
The airport’s exceptional figures come at a time when its long-term future is being debated, with a decision to be made on whether it should be given up for concession or run by the state. Last week, Belgrade’s Mayor, Siniša Mali, toured Lisbon Airport and discussed how Portugal’s concession model could be applied in Serbia. Lisbon Airport is run by France’s concession and construction company Vinci, which is now considered to be one of the front-runners in Belgrade’s potential concession. The Portuguese government created the state-run operator ANA Airport de Portugal in 1998 which operates ten airports across the country. Vinci acquired the ANA group through a fifty-year concession in 2013 in a transaction worth 3.08 billion euros. Similarly, the Serbian government is also in the process of setting-up operator Airports of Serbia.
In a statement last week, Mr. Mali said, "It is important to get a sense of good concession practices, such as Lisbon Airport, since we plan to apply a similar model with Belgrade Airport. We have similar goals as the Portuguese, and that is for Belgrade Airport to become a regional hub. The goal is to increase passenger numbers”. The mayor added that he toured Lisbon Airport since it is run by Vinci with which Belgrade Airport has signed a Memorandum of Understanding. The government is expected to create the operator Airports of Serbia later this month. A final decision on Belgrade Airport’s future is set to be made in May.