|Skopje and Tivat frontrunners for new Ryanair flights|
Europe's busiest airline, Ryanair, is expected to put a greater emphasis on the former Yugoslav market following the opening of a new base in nearby Timisoara in Romania and Sofia in Bulgaria later this year. The budget carrier will expand its operations from both Zadar and Podgorica this summer but is also eyeing flights from Tivat and Skopje, where it has been involved in drawn-out negotiations with the Macedonian government since last year. A range of services are said to be in play, with Ohrid also being considered as a potential destination. The CEO of Skopje Airport's operator, TAV, Sani Sener, recently said that despite being a Wizz Air stronghold, there is room for more low cost players in Macedonia. "Skopje is already a successful Wizz Air base, but we think there is considerable opportunity for more low cost operators", Mr Sener said. Commenting on Ryanair's shift towards the east, the airline's Chief Marketing Officer, Kenny Jacobs, noted, “It’s going to be more Ryanair and Wizz going head to head. It’s going to get harder [for Wizz], given our scale, our cost advantage, and our fare advantage. It’ll be an interesting scrap in the coming years”.
Ryanair launched flights to Podgorica in the summer of 2013 following two years of negotiations with the Montenegrin government. The airline introduced seasonal services from Charleroi, which have since been extended to year-round operations, and has also added flights from London Stansted. The carrier is now revisiting plans to launch flights to Tivat. It initially intended to introduce services from London, Barcelona, Stockholm and Milan to the seaside city, however, high fees and a lack of incentives are believed to have delayed such plans. Meanwhile, its low cost rival, easyJet, will commence operations to Montenegro with seasonal flights from London Gatwick and Manchester to Tivat. "We expected that this new route [Manchester - Tivat] would not take long to become a firm favourite as an easy and affordable summer destination for our customers and it has proved to be so successful that we believe there is a real demand for this flight from London Gatwick to Tivat too", easyJet said in a statement last week. Ryanair’s Head of Communications, Robyn Kiely, told EX-YU Aviation News recently that the airline was also satisfied with its performance on the Montenegrin market. “We are very pleased with our Podgorica operations, which continue to perform strongly”, Mr Kiely said.
Ryanair will expand operations from its only (seasonal) base in the former Yugoslavia - Zadar- next month, after downsizing its network from the city for two consecutive years. The no frills carrier plans to launch one new route, operate 39 weekly flights, carry 315.000 passengers and create 230 on-site jobs in Zadar in 2016. The airline will introduce services from the city to Berlin Schonofeld Airport starting April 4, which will complement its existing network from Zadar, which includes Beauvais, Charleroi, Dublin, Gothenburg, Hahn, Baden-Baden, London Stansted, Manchester, Marseille, Moss, Stockholm Skavsta and Weeze. Zadar provided 1.4 million euros in order for Ryanair to set up a base and station one of its aircraft at the airport in 2013. Meanwhile, the airline will upgrade its seasonal summer service between London Stansted Airport and Osijek to year-long operations. Flights will now operate throughout the year during the 2016/17 winter season as well. As a result, Osijek becomes the only Croatian city to be served by Ryanair on a year-long basis, with all of its other destinations in the country operated seasonally. Furthermore, the low cost airline is considering introducing services from Dublin to Osijek.
Despite an open invitation from the Secretariat of Economy of the City of Belgrade for it to launch flights to the Serbian capital last year, Ryanair has shown little interest. However, the airline has also been approached by Niš Airport, in south-eastern Serbia. On the other hand, in late 2014 the carrier confirmed it had entered negotiations with Mostar Airport concerning the possible launch of services from Germany and Scandinavia to Bosnia and Herzegovina. “We are the leading airline in Europe. We have developed many small and regional European airports and there is no obstacle for us to do the same in Mostar”, the no frills carrier said at the time. In the end, these flights did not materialise. Furthermore, in 2007, Ryanair launched flights to Maribor, however, the service was cancelled only a few months later. The budget airline says it is currently considering up to forty different destinations in Europe as it continues to expand its network and fleet and shifts its focus towards Central and Eastern Europe.