|Several carriers plan to launch Macedonia flights|
The head of the Macedonian Civil Aviation Agency, Goran Jandreoski, says his country is negotiating with "several larger world-renowned airlines" over potential flights to Skopje and Ohrid. Mr Jandreoski notes that the arrival of these carriers, anticipated for next year, will further boost passenger numbers and have a positive impact on the local economy, which will, in turn, improve Macedonia's image. However, he stopped short of naming the airlines considering services to the country. Both Ryanair and Qatar Airways have confirmed discussions with the Macedonian government. In reference to the Irish budget carrier, Macedonia's Prime Minister, Nikola Gruevski, said, “We are negotiating with one of the most prominent low cost airlines in the world to launch a range of services which will connect Skopje and Ohrid with various destinations in Europe and beyond”. On the other hand, Qatar Airways has stated, "We hope that next year we will introduce direct flights to Skopje, which will represent an excellent opportunity to building bridges between our two countries. We see potential investment opportunities in Macedonia, primarily as a country that can develop tourism".
The Russian low cost airline Pobeda is reportedly looking to include Skopje to its network, after introducing its first international flights from Moscow to Bratislava and Bergamo last week. Furthermore, Montenegro Airlines has said it is considering resuming services to the Macedonian capital in 2016. "Before we make a final decision on launching flights, we have to conduct a feasibility study to determine whether the service would be profitable and whether the Macedonian government is prepared to subsidise part of the expenses”, the Montenegrin carrier said in a statement. It added, “The launch of this service would benefit both regional and business ties. In addition, Macedonian passengers would have the ability to connect onto other flights through Montenegrin airports”. Montenegro Airlines suspended its daily service from Podgorica to Skopje Alexander the Great Airport in February 2011, without prior notice, when it was revealed the carrier had several thousands of euros in unpaid debt towards Macedonia’s busiest airport. This year, the airline settled its outstanding payments.
Wizz Air, which now handles half of all passengers using Skopje Airport, has already announced the introduction of three new route from the Macedonian capital next year - Berlin, Bratislava and Copenhagen. Furthermore, Czech Airlines will launch seasonal flights from Prague next summer. Earlier this year, the operator of Macedonia's two international airports, TAV, said, "The latest studies show us that there are still many opportunities in the unserved or underserved markets of Germany, Denmark, Belgium, France, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom in Europe". Mr Jandreoski believes that stimulating foreign airlines has paid off. "I have to emphasise that the government's strategy to subsidise certain flights to Macedonia has generated outstanding results. On the one hand, it significantly increased the number of people travelling from and to the country, and, on the other, it increased mobility amongst Macedonian citizens", Mr Jandreoski concludes.