|Croatia Airlines considering strategic partnership with Montenegro Airlines|
The Montenegrin state-owned daily “Pobjeda”, which first broke news of talks between Montenegro Airlines and Etihad Airways over a strategic partnership agreement, has now reported that Croatia Airlines is eyeing a stake in the Montenegrin carrier. Croatia Airlines has neither confirmed nor denied the reports. It comes after the two sides met with the Montenegrin Minister for Transport and Maritime Affairs, Ivan Brajović, in Podgorica last week in order to strengthen their cooperation. As a result, codeshare flights between Podgorica and Zagreb will be launched this winter season, with Montenegro Airlines chosen as the operating carrier. Flights will be timed so as to connect onto Croatia Airlines’ services to Brussels, Copenhagen, Munich and Amsterdam. Both Montenegro Airlines and its Croatian counterpart are up for privatisation this year.
According to Montenegro Airlines, the new service will result in improved connectivity between the two neighbouring countries, as well as an expansion on the market, which both carriers are working towards. Croatia Airlines will provide logistical support for the new route, while Montenegro Airlines has been offered incentives from Zagreb Airport, such as service discounts, in order to kick-start the new service. The Montenegrin carrier faces no competition on the route. Croatia Airlines, suspended its three weekly flights between the two capital cities back in 2013 due to low demand. Originally, the two airlines planned to introduce the service this summer but the launch date, which is yet to be specified, has now been pushed back until the 2015/16 winter season.
Montenegro Airlines’ CEO, Daliborka Pejović, recently announced that her airline will sign a strategic partnership agreement with Etihad Airways this June, describing it as “a major opportunity for the promotion of Montenegro”. Ms. Pejović said that the strategic partnership agreement with the Abu Dhabi-based carrier will enable access to Etihad’s global network of destinations and allow Montenegro Airlines to use the Emirati carrier’s resources in order to improve its fleet utilisation during the slow winter months. Furthermore, the two will ink a codeshare agreement. At the time, Ms. Pejović said both sides were still considering whether the Emirati national carrier should buy a stake in Montenegro Airlines. However, in a recent interview, Serbia’s Minister for Labour, Employment, Veteran and Social Policy, Aleksandar Vulin, noted that Etihad was in fact in talks with Montenegro Airlines over a possible equity investment, with the Emirati carrier already a part-owner of Air Serbia. Two weeks ago, Montenegro Airlines’ Chief Commercial Officer, Predrag Marković, said the two sides are currently only discussing commercial cooperation, adding that at this stage he is “not informed” of a potential equity investment on Etihad’s behalf.