|Macedonian government seeks foreign partner for national airline project|
Macedonia is continuing its search for a foreign partner in order for it to assist in the establishment of the country's new national carrier. Although the process has been somewhat delayed, the head of the Macedonian Civil Aviation Agency, Goran Jandreoski, says the country is still committed to the project. "We have not put the process on hold. We are looking for the right partner", Mr Jandreoski told the "Denar" portal. Last year, the Dutch-based InterVistas Consulting Group 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. Mr Jandreoski notes that the findings of the study are confidential. "Data from the report is classified. I can only say that if a foreign carrier is interested, they can be involved, but must sign a letter of confidentiality".
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. A new national airline will have to comprise of at least 51% local capital and have no less than one aircraft registered in the country, either owned or leased. However, Macedonia remains committed to subsidising low cost carriers, a policy which has attracted the likes of Wizz Air, which has carried over two million passengers to and from the country over the past four and a half years. "Cheap flights, which enjoy financial support from the government, are of great importance to both the economy and our citizens. On the one hand, they bring a great number of foreign tourists to Macedonia, boosting earnings in tourism and twenty other industries, that are either directly or indirectly linked to the tourism sector. On the other hand, for us, it is very important to provide greater opportunities and enhance mobility among our citizens, in order for them to travel across Europe at affordable prices", Aleksandar Georgiev, the government's spokesperson, said.
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.