|Latest decision affects over 1.500 holiday makers|
The Serbian Civil Aviation Directorate (CAD) has refused to issue permits to two charter carriers for a second time. Egypt’s Nesma Airlines and Turkey’s Corendon have both been snubbed by the Directorate, affecting over 1.500 travellers who have booked holiday packages to Hurghada and the Turkish coast. The CAD gave no explanation for its decision. Two months ago it initially approved flight requests filed by both airlines saying that they met all necessary standards. However, the two carriers were blocked based on the advisory opinion of the Serbian Ministry for Construction, Transport and Infrastructure. At the time, the regulator said, “These carriers did not receive the approval from the ministry, and have therefore been automatically refused by the Directorate”. Both airlines reapplied for a permit since then.
Late last month, the Serbian Parliament adopted changes to the aviation law, which specifies tighter regulation for charter operators. According to the modified Air Transport Law, which came into effect earlier this week, the ministry no longer has a say in which carrier is issued a license to operate flights. That decision now firmly rests with the CAD. The regulator’s decision to withhold permits from Nesma and Corendon has raised questions whether it is acting independently, as it previously said it would issue permits to charter carriers “within an hour or two”. Argus Tours, the tour operator which has been selling holiday packages with transport provided by the abovementioned airlines, said in a statement, “We are concerned with the CAD’s decision which defies logic. Modifications to the Air Transport Law have only formally annulled the ministry’s involvement”.
The Directorate has refused a request for Nesma Airlines to operate all 73 flights to the Serbian capital, while Corendon Airlines has been approved 23 out of its 97 planned services. Argus Tours has suspended sales of its holiday packages to Egypt. According to legislation, tour operators must first conclude agreements with charter airlines before these carriers can apply for a permit. While the Ministry for Construction, Transport and Infrastructure has admitted that several airlines have been knocked back so as not to generate additional competition for national carrier Air Serbia and its dedicated charter brand Aviolet, tour operators also believe the move is related to the protection of other tour operators who have good relations with the government. Freebird Airlines has previously been rejected from operating charters to Belgrade this year, while Turkish Airlines and Aegean Airlines have been issued a license to run holiday flights from Turkey and Greece respectively.