|Government fails to create airport operator and decide on future expansion|
The Serbian government has failed to meet several key deadlines it set relating to the future of the country’s busiest airport in Belgrade, as its facilities reach the upper limits of its capacity. Two months have passed since the government planned to create a state-run operator to manage up to 25 of the country’s airports. According to the Ministry for Construction, Transport and Infrastructure, the set-up of the new state-owned operator is still on the table but is awaiting the approval of other ministries and government agencies involved in its creation. The idea to establish a single operator was seen as a move to privatise the country’s airport infrastructure. Initial plans called for the renaming of the public company running Belgrade Airport to “Airports of Serbia” with more than twenty smaller airports to be added to its managing portfolio. However, it is no longer clear weather Nikola Tesla Airport will fall under the new Airports of Serbia public enterprise, with the ministry saying the matter is still up for discussion, two months after failing to meet its April deadline. Previously, the Minister for Construction, Transport and Infrastructure, Zorana Mihajlović, said, “Airports of Serbia is not just an idea, its formation is planned for March or April. We are not setting up a stand-alone company, rather, these airports will be added to the “Aerodrom Beograd” operator which manages Belgrade Airport”.
Furthermore, the government is still undecided whether to offer a concession or invest in Belgrade Airport on its own. This is despite statements made by the country’s Prime Minister, Aleksandar Vučić, that the airport’s future expansion model would be known by June. So far, the government has only ruled out plans to sell the airport. According to Ms. Mihajlović, “Belgrade Airport must expand and have a quality partner. It is only a matter of choosing the right model”. French concession and construction company Vinci reaffirmed its interest to vie for a concession of the airport following talks between French investors and the Serbian government in March.
With several deadlines come and gone, Belgrade Airport has initiated a short-term investment cycle. “We are close to the limit of our capacities at the moment. That's why we decided to start a short-term investment cycle. Once it is completed, we will expand capacity to 7 - 7.5 million passengers a year", Ana Luković, the airport’s Director for Development and Investment said recently. The airport will spend fifteen million euros of its own funds in expanding Terminal 2 by building eight new gates and a new departures area. Furthermore, the airport has begun a two million euro reconstruction of its Terminal 1 building, which is used primarily by low cost and charter airlines. Passport and immigration control will be reintroduced at the terminal, which has, for the past several years, been used solely for check-in purposes. Work is expected to be carried out through to September. “The new passport and immigration control is primarily aimed at passengers checking in at Terminal 1, but it will also have the ability to handle a portion of passengers who are using Terminal 2, which will ease congestion. Additional commercial space will be opened, which will increase revenue from non-aviation related services”, the airport says. A further three million euros will be spent on new de-icing equipment.