|Macedonian government still committed to national airline project|
The Macedonian government is determined to establish a new national carrier and is expected to make a final decision on the issue in 2016, more than six years on from the demise of MAT Macedonian Airlines. The Dutch-based InterVistas Consulting Group recently compiled a detailed traffic forecast for the government, as well as a financial feasibility study, and gave recommendations on whether a new national airline is needed and whether the company could be financially viable. Furthermore, the consulting firm devised a timetable outlining the pace at which the new airline should be formed. The Macedonian Civil Aviation Agency believes a new national carrier will further develop the country’s aviation sector and enhance Macedonia’s socio-economic development. However, a final decision on the project will likely come after next year's early parliamentary elections, which have been called for April 26.
The Macedonian government has already outlined that a new national airline will have to comprise of at least 51% local capital and with no less than one aircraft registered in the country, either owned or leased. Furthermore, the government has maintained that subsidies issued to low cost airlines, such as Wizz Air, for its flights out of the country, will be retained regardless of whether a new national airline is launched. The head of the Macedonian Civil Aviation Agency, Goran Jandreoski, noted that the country has 63 registered commercial pilots, most of whom work outside the country but are ready to return home, as well as a further 74 technical personnel, all of which could assist with the new airline.
The Turkish TAV Airports Holding, which runs both of Macedonia’s international airports, has previously said the country is in need of a national carrier which would help develop its aviation sector. “TAV wants to compete with airports in neighbouring countries and attract foreign airlines. If you do not have a national carrier, then you miss out on the opportunity to attract airlines from other countries. This is because of commitments outlined in bilateral air agreements. We are trying to attract foreign airlines to Macedonia and establish a national carrier, otherwise air traffic in the country will stall”, the airport operator previously said. It added, “What is lacking is a national airline. ‘Macedonian Airlines’ must be established. We have invested in airports and Macedonia should invest in its own carrier”. In the past, Turkish Airlines was tipped as a frontrunner in partnering up with the Macedonian government to establish a new national carrier. Over the past twenty years, Macedonia has had two national airlines, both of which subsequently declared bankruptcy.
Macedonia's previous national airline, MAT, which folded in 2009, handled 215.409 passengers on 3.021 flights with two aircraft during its last year of normal operations. It registered an average cabin load factor of 71% that year and maintained scheduled flights from Skopje to Zurich, Vienna, Istanbul, Rome, Berlin and Hamburg, as well as seasonal summer flights to Amsterdam. Furthermore, the carrier operated services from Ohrid to Zurich throughout 2008. In addition, the Macedonian carrier maintained charter flights to Sharm el Sheik and Hurghada in Egypt, Antalya and Bodrum in Turkey, as well as Monastir in Tunisia. MAT was only the second flag carrier in the former Yugoslavia, after Croatia Airlines, to introduce electronic ticketing and online booking.