|Bratislava - Skopje link expected by March 2016|
The Managing Director of Bratislava Airport, Ivan Trhlik, has announced the introduction of flights between the Slovakian capital and Skopje. Speaking to Radio and Television Slovakia, Mr Trhlik said the new route to Skopje Alexander the Great Airport will be launched by March next year, along with flights to Moscow, Tbilisi, Sofia and two cities in Israel. He did not discuss the service in further detail, leaving out which carrier will operate the route. Bratislava is a Ryanair base, with the no frills carrier recently confirming to EX-YU Aviation News its intention to launch services to the Macedonian capital. There are currently no links between Bratislava and Skopje.
Bratislava Airport is just fifty kilometres east of Vienna, which is home to a sizable Macedonian diaspora. Ryanair opened its 71st base in Bratislava this March, basing two aircraft in the city, with plans for a third jet to be stationed there in the near future. The no frills carrier currently operates flights to thirteen destinations from Bratislava on a year-round basis, with another to be introduced in October. Furthermore, it runs an additional five seasonal summer services from the city. The Macedonian government is willing to offer subsidies and incentives to Ryanair, similar to the ones provided to Wizz Air, which saw it open a base in Skopje and launch services to Ohrid as well. Ryanair is believed to be negotiating not just one but a range of services from the Macedonian capital. Ryanair’s arrival in Macedonia would mark another important milestone for Skopje Alexander the Great Airport which is quickly becoming the former Yugoslavia’s low cost hub, offering cheap flights throughout the year.
The Macedonian Finance Minister, Zoran Stavreski, says the arrival of new airlines and the increase in the number of passengers at Skopje Airport is directly linked to the 2011 opening of a new passenger terminal and the overall improvement in infrastructure. “Airport infrastructure is one of the ways to attract tourists and it is a fact there are more tourists visiting Macedonia following the construction and reconstruction of Skopje and Ohrid airports”, Mr Stavreski said. He added, “The increase in the number of passengers since 2009 has been twelve-fold. Investment in tourism infrastructure represents a prerequisite for increasing the number of tourists arriving in the country”.