|Tuzla Airport eyes 200.000 passengers in 2015|
Tuzla Airport, which will become Wizz Air’s 19th base and its third in the former Yugoslavia this June, is preparing for its busiest year on record. Close to 200.000 passengers are expected to pass through its doors this year. Earlier this week, the Tuzla Canton government approved a 2015 business plan which signals major changes for the once sleepy airport. A total of 25 new employees will be hired, with the airport to extend its opening hours from 05.00 to 23.00. Furthermore, access roads to the airport will be overhauled and new approach lights installed in order to decrease flight delays and cancellations due to poor weather conditions, especially during the spring and autumn months. “With at least one aircraft to be based in Tuzla and three services per day, the airport will start working in three shifts. During 2015, Tuzla Airport will meet all technical and other contractual obligations it has with Wizz Air, with the aim of becoming the airline’s regional hub”, Tuzla Airport’s Managing Director, Rifet Karasalihović, says.
Wizz Air will base a new Airbus A320 aircraft in Tuzla from late June. It will launch new flights to Frankfurt Hahn and Sandefjord, starting June 24, as well as to Memmingen and Stockholm Skavsta commencing June 26. With these new services, the budget airline will offer a total of nine routes to five countries from Bosnia and Herzegovina’s third largest city. It already operates flights to Tuzla from Malmo, Basel, Dortmund, Gothenburg and Eindhoven. In an earlier statement, Wizz Air’s Chief Commercial Officer, Gyorgy Abran, said, “The new Tuzla base will create a number of local jobs with Wizz Air and our local business partners. We look forward to becoming the airline of choice of Bosnian consumers and visitors”. The low cost airline’s CEO, Jozsef Varadi, told EX-YU Aviation News that Wizz is “highly excited for Bosnia and Herzegovina” and hopes to replicate its success in Tuzla across the country. “Wizz Air is very well suited for that environment. The country is absolutely right for our business plan”, Mr. Varadi said. However, he added, “We are in talks with Sarajevo Airport but they are simply too expensive. They need to lower their costs”.
Tuzla Airport has struggled to attract airlines and passengers since it opened its doors for commercial use in 1998. However, its fortunes turned in 2013 when Wizz Air launched its first service from Malmo. Flights quickly proved popular and the no frills airline expanded its network. In 2014, the airport handled 151.353 passengers, a notable 146% increase on the year before. The airport welcomed more passengers last year then it did for the three previous years combined. During the first two months of 2015, Tuzla Airport has continued to see its passenger numbers grow with 24.965 travellers handled, an increase of 69.5% compared to the same period last year.