|Pristina Airport to spur passenger growth|
Pristina Airport and the Kosovo Civil Aviation Authority have launched a range of new inventive schemes in an attempt stimulate passenger growth. The airport, which last year saw its numbers decline almost 14%, has rolled out seven different incentive programs, including those for new route developments, additional frequencies, high traffic volume, fixed base operation support, marketing support, non-residential premises incentive and off-peak time support. So far this year, Pristina Airport has seen its passenger numbers improve, with the airport handling some 297.600 travellers during the first quarter, an increase of 8% compared to the same period last year. In 2014, Pristina Airport was the former Yugoslavia’s fifth busiest with 1.404.775 travellers, down from third place only a year before.
The new incentive policies come despite the airport’s opposition to similar measures employed by its counterpart in Skopje. In November last year, Kosovo lodged a complaint with the European Commission threatening to take legal action over subsidies provided by the Macedonian government to low cost airlines at Skopje Airport. The Kosovo Civil Aviation Authority argued that the incentives created unfair competition in the region. The Macedonian government initiated a three-year subsidy scheme in 2012, which was recently extended by another three years. The measures have proved successful with Wizz Air opening a base at Skopje Airport, stimulating significant growth. Recently, the low cost airline’s CEO, Jozsef Varadi, told EX-YU Aviation News the carrier was in talks with Pristina Airport over potential flights. “We can confirm talks with Kosovo. However, airport costs are a problem and we have been dragged into long negotiations”, Mr. Varadi said.
Under the new route development incentive, those airlines willing to operate flights to Pristina from unserved destinations will be exempt from landing fees for the first year and will enjoy a 50% discount in their second year of operations. The additional frequency incentive hopes to encourage airlines to add additional flights to their existing schedules. Airlines operating at least one additional frequency will be freed of landing fees for one year. Furthermore, carriers which handle over 50.000 passengers from Pristina during 2015 will be eligible for financial support. Pristina Airport will provide 0.50 euro per passenger to airlines which handle between 50.001 - 100.000 travellers (Austrian, Belair and Pegasus Airlines managed these figures in 2014) and two euros per head to airlines carrying between 100.001 - 200.000 travellers (Adria Airways, Turkish Airlines, easyJet, Germanwings and Edelweiss). Airlines that handle over 200.000 passengers (Germania) will receive three euros per passenger and those carrying over 300.000 five euros. The fixed base operation incentive will provide a 100% discount to all airlines that have at least one aircraft stationed in Pristina. Other incentive arrangements also include free storage and maintenance space for carriers, marketing support and the use of free, less desirable, slot times.