|B&H grounded as government moves to liquidate carrier|
The Federation government of Bosnia and Herzegovina has decided to liquidate its carrier, B&H Airlines, saying the move is “not the end of the world”. The Federal Minister for Transport and Communication, Denis Lasić, said that the best option would be for the airline to declare bankruptcy. “They [B&H Airlines] have eaten up everything they had and now they are in a situation where they must redirect all state funding to HETA”. B&H has some eight million euros worth of debt owed to HETA, the asset management company, for the financial lease of its two ATR 72s. The Minister added, “It has come to this. The newly formed government is not at fault, we are accused for saying it how it is. I have held talks with the Prime Minister Fadil Novalić and the conclusion is to liquidate the carrier. It is not the end of the world. It is a state-owned company but other carriers in the region aren’t exactly pushing daisies either”.
While B&H Airlines might be a small company whose bankruptcy will have little effect on Sarajevo Airport, its demise will be felt elsewhere. The airline’s 90-strong workforce will all lose their jobs although it is understood that the government is in the process of forming redundancy packages. The Association of Transport and Communication Engineers of Bosnia and Herzegovina said, “If B&H Airlines is shut down all aviation-related professions will forever be lost. Bosnian pilots, support staff and maintenance personnel will no longer be needed and with it, professional aviation in the country will cease to exist”. Banja Luka Airport will also lose out from B&H’s impending bankruptcy. The airline carried 4.861 passengers on its flights from Banja Luka last year. As a result, it handled almost 18% of all passengers using the airport.
Employees, who have not been paid in over four months, are still hoping for a last minute deal which could save the airline. However, as of this morning, the carrier itself is not operating any flights. It has suspended both scheduled and charter operations until further notice with one aircraft grounded in Germany and the other in Sarajevo. “Someone wants to destroy us. We can only guess the motive”, the airline’s employees said. B&H Airlines was initially founded as Air Bosna in 1994, but ceased operations in 2003 due to mounting debt. Two years later the Federation government revived the carrier and renamed it B&H Airlines. Turkish Airlines purchased a 49% stake in the carrier in 2008 with a promise to expand its fleet and operations. However, in 2012, it withdrew from B&H’s ownership structure, citing problems with the government.