|Foreign carriers overcome increased competition and fees during first quarter|
The busiest foreign carriers operating flights to Belgrade Nikola Tesla Airport have seen their passenger numbers improve in the first quarter of the year despite increased competition and a significant reduction in the number of operated flights. Montenegro Airlines, which is the airport’s fourth busiest carrier, led the growth with 48.730 passengers handled, an increase of 16% compared to the same period last year. The airline was one of only a handful of international carriers (joining Aegean Airlines, easyJet, Qatar Airways, LOT and TAROM) to boost its number of operated flights to the Serbian capital in the first quarter of the year. It also managed to increase its passenger share from 9.8% to 11. 8%. However, the surge is not translating into increased profits for the carrier. Montenegro Airlines recently said that due to increased competition from Air Serbia it has been forced to reduce fares on its signature routes between Podgorica, Tivat and Belgrade, leading to low yields.
Star Alliance members Lufthansa and Turkish Airlines also managed to see their passengers numbers improve by 8.4% and 3% respectively. However, both reduced their operations to Belgrade, with Lufthansa running 19.7% fewer flights this year. Wizz Air was the major exception to the trend. The no frills carrier, which also calls Belgrade its home, saw its passenger numbers slide 8.4%, handling 83.968 passengers, an airport report shows. The decline comes following a decision made last year by the low cost airline to cut down on routes and capacity from its Belgrade base in response to increased fees, which have only been applied to international carriers. Overall, foreign airlines accounted for 425.906 passengers at Belgrade Airport during the first quarter, up 2% on last year.
Busiest foreign carriers at Belgrade Airport Q1
|Wizz Air||83.968||▼ 8.4|
|Montenegro Airlines||48.730||▲ 16.0|
|Turkish Airlines||36.822||▲ 3.0|
The performance put in by international carriers has been in focus over recent months after several airlines publicly accused Belgrade Airport of significantly increasing its fees over the past year. Furthermore, foreign airlines now face a much stronger national carrier, which managed to increase its passenger numbers by 26% during the first quarter. Last year, Wizz Air said in a statement, “Unfortunately, Serbian passengers and tourists now have to stand aside while their choices gradually diminish as a result of a full fare ‘wannabe’ monopolist Etihad/Air Serbia. [Belgrade] as one of the most expensive airports in Europe should work to stimulate low cost travel”. Montenegro Airlines has also responded to the increased fees. Over the weekend it said its finances have been affected as a result of a new pricing policy implemented by the airport last April. The carrier’s Chief Commercial Officer, Predrag Marković, said recently, “We have been offered extremely unfavourable terms for aircraft handling. It all started in April last year, when we were given an annex to our agreement which foresees a significant increase in handling fees by 50%. You will agree that this is quite irrational, because every year we record passenger growth on this market and basic business sense dictates that when someone records passenger growth they should be stimulated, not the opposite”.
Despite flight cuts, the majority of the busiest foreign carriers operating into Belgrade Airport managed to improve their passenger numbers. However, during the second quarter, Lufthansa, Alitalia, Swiss International Air Lines, Austrian Airlines, Vueling, Turkish Airlines and easyJet will operate fewer flights than last year while the likes of TAP Portugal and Etihad Regional have suspended services all together. Germanwings will maintain flights from Stuttgart to the Serbian capital for just over a month, between late July and early September. Problems with charter flights operated by foreign carriers also threaten to impact the airport’s passenger growth rate.
Most frequent foreign carriers at Belgrade Airport Q1
|Airline||Flight ops.||Change (%)|
|Montenegro Airlines||688||▲ 19.0|
|Wizz Air||594||▼ 12.2|
|Austrian Airlines||462||▼ 13.6|
|Turkish Airlines||377||▼ 11.9|
|Swiss Int. Air Lines||292||▼ 17.0|