|Belgrade Airport hit by 10% passenger decline on charter flights|
Belgrade Nikola Tesla Airport has seen passenger numbers decline on charter services after the Serbian Civil Aviation Directorate, on orders from the Ministry for Construction, Transport and Infrastructure, refused to grant permits to several foreign leisure airlines seeking to operate flights to Belgrade this summer season. The Directorate declined to issue a license to Freebird Airlines from Turkey, as well as Nesma Airlines from Egypt, while Corendon Airlines was approved just 25 out of 95 planned flights. In addition, Air Cairo, which runs a scheduled year-round service, was denied an additional weekly flight from Hurghada. As a result, Belgrade Airport handled 10% fewer passengers on charter flights up to September 1, which also impacted its August figures when the airport recorded its first passenger decline in 27 months. Air Serbia's dedicated charter brand, Aviolet, increased its number of flights slightly when compared to last year.
In a statement, Belgrade Airport said, "Since permits were not issued to some charter operators for the summer of 2015, the number of these flights decreased compared to last year, which will impact on revenue generated from flight operations". This summer, charters to Greek holiday hotspots such as Crete, Corfu and Rhodes were most popular, while services to Antalya recorded the highest growth rate when compared to last year, exceeding 80%. Only three foreign national carriers secured rights to operate charter flights between their respective countries and Belgrade. They included Turkish Airlines, which ran charter services from Antalya, Aegean Airlines from Heraklion, Rhodes and Corfu, and Tunis Air from Monastir, although the latter was cancelled mid-way through the season due to the Sousse beach attacks.
Earlier this summer, the Ministry for Transport said Serbia's national carrier had previously maintained an 80% passenger share on flights to Turkey, which would have been under threat this year were all requested permits issued. Furthermore, the ministry maintained that Turkish carriers were creating unfair competition on the market and insisted that Air Serbia should be the primary carrier for Serbian holidaymakers. In addition, the Ministry accused Turkish charter carriers of trying to put pressure on the Ministry through Serbian tour operators and other diplomatic channels. Foreign carriers have been increasingly dissatisfied with their treatment by Belgrade Airport and the Serbian Civil Aviation Directorate.