|Montenegro Airlines sees strong growth in Slovenia as Russia numbers tumble|
Montenegro Airlines handled almost 580.000 passengers on 6.800 flights during 2015. The figures represent a 4% increase in passengers, while the number of operated flights grew 5% on the year before, but is still short of its 2012 record when it welcomed 601.000 travellers on board. Overall, the number of those flying on scheduled services increased 3.2%, whereas passenger numbers on charter flights jumped 16%. The carrier saw an improvement on most markets, including its busiest - Serbia - where it handled 259.700 travellers. "Despite the significant challenges we are faced with on the Serbian market, we saw an additional 4.700 passengers on our flights to/from Belgrade, an increase of 2% on 2014", the airline said in a statement. In April 2014, Belgrade Airport increased its fees for the airline by 1.3 million euros per year.
Other markets, with exception to Russia, also registered an improvement in numbers in 2015. Montenegro Airlines handled an additional 5.600 passengers on its flights to/from Ljubljana (+53%), an additional 2.000 travellers to Dusseldorf (+45%) and an extra 2.200 passengers on its Copenhagen route (+44%), compared to 2014. Figures for Montenegro Airlines' London service grew 23%, Paris was up 10%, while Zurich numbers improved 4%. Passenger numbers on the airline's Vienna and Rome flights were steady and remained unchanged compared to the year before. On the other hand, despite introducing additional services to Russia during the summer, the Montenegrin carrier recorded an 18% decline in passengers. The airline blames the weaker figures on a volatile rouble and the state of the Russian economy.
Montenegro Airlines did not report its financial results for last year, although it did incur hefty losses during the first half of 2015, amounting to 6.5 million euros. In 2014, the airline registered a 9.5 million euro net loss. Montenegro Airlines enters 2016 with plans to develop its regional network and cut down on losses and debt. New destinations could include Zagreb, Skopje and Pristina, among others, with the carrier also looking to strengthen its cooperation with airlines from neighbouring countries. Furthermore, the Montenegrin carrier is considering introducing charter flights to Prague and Maribor next summer, as well as additional charters to Germany, namely to Hamburg and Munich. Extra frequencies to Ljubljana, London and St Petersburg are also expected. The airline plans to boost its ties with Etihad Airways in line with the Memorandum of Understanding for Strategic Commercial Cooperation the two signed last November. The Emirati carrier has begun screening various parts of Montenegro Airlines' business. The national airline has been slated for privatisation this year, with Etihad, or one of its partner airlines, a likely contender for a stake.