|Pristina Airport in contact with Wizz Air over potential flights|
Pristina Airport has confirmed it is in talks with low cost carrier Wizz Air over potential flights but warns that pricing remains an issue. Managing Director, Haldun Fırat Kokturk, confirmed that the airport is also negotiating with several other well-known carriers, noting that its airline subsidy scheme is producing results, with easyJet recently announcing it would launch flights from Berlin to Pristina starting March 27, 2016. Wizz Air's CEO, Jozsef Varadi, recently said, "We can confirm talks with Kosovo. However, airport costs are a problem and we have been dragged into long negotiations”. Mr Kokturk concedes that fees are proving an issue for the Turkish-run airport. "Because of the fees, airlines are hesitating to start operations to Kosovo since they want to get cheaper prices from the airport. Our fees are set in our concession agreement, we are not the decision makers. In our concession agreement, there is an annex describing the fees. So we are paying the concession fee to the government, which is calculated according to those fees. We can make a discount but we need the approval of the government, the Civil Aviation Authority and the Public Private Partnership Unit", Mr Kokturk explains.
Last year, Pristina Airport launched a subsidy program to encourage airlines to operate more flights to the city and attract new carriers as well. "We worked hard to convince the government that we have to offer discounts in order to attract airlines. If we increase the passenger quantity we can compensate these discounts. With more passengers we will generate more revenue. We made a lot of discounts for additional frequencies and new routes", Mr Kokturk says. However, the Managing Director emphasises that the subsidy scheme is fair, balanced and open to all airlines, unlike, according to him, the one offered at nearby rival Skopje Airport. "Our incentive program is fair to all airlines. It says - bring me additional passengers, get more discounts. Put an additional flight, get more discounts. Open a new route which is not served from here, get more discounts. Base an aircraft here, leave the aircraft here and get more discounts. It has worked". Pristina Airport spent 300.000 euros on its incentive program in 2014, with the figure set to grow this year. For the 2016 summer season, the airport has requested input from other carriers, among which is Wizz Air.
Pristina Airport has staged a recovery this year following the collapse of its busiest airline, Belle Air Europe, in December 2013, which had a major impact on its passenger performance throughout 2014. Over the past eleven months, the airport handled 1.443.714 travellers, an increase of 11.7% compared to the same period last year. "Depending on passenger flow during this last month of the year and the Christmas period, we expect to close at around 1.55 - 1.60 million passengers in 2015", Mr Kokturk says. The airport anticipates to register similar passenger numbers next year as well. The Managing Director notes that if Kosovan passport holders are granted visa free travel to the European Union in 2016, the airport will see a surge in numbers, but if not its figures are expected to stay at similar levels to the year before.