|Belgrade Airport eyes future growth following passenger decline in Q1|
Belgrade Nikola Tesla Airport recorded a second consecutive quarter of declining passenger numbers, illustrating its dependence on Air Serbia, which now holds a passenger share of just over 50% at its home base. Belgrade Airport, which added one million passengers in 2014 and owed most of its success to the national carrier over the past two years, has also taken on a much more passive role in attracting foreign airline operators, a number of which have complained of high fees following the introduction of a revised pricing policy in 2014. However, the airport estimates it will handle over five million passengers this year and record annual growth of 3% to 5%. It will take part in the Routes Europe event later this month, giving it an opportunity to hold talks with over a hundred airlines and their network planners.
This summer season, Belgrade Airport will again benefit as a result of Air Serbia. The national carrier will introduce new flights to Hamburg, Ohrid, Kiev, St. Petersburg and New York and increase frequencies on a number of destinations. Last year, the airport started off with strong growth, however, during the winter of 2015/16, the national carrier cut down on its operations and suspended two routes, which had a noticeable impact on the airport's own numbers. Air Serbia's CEO, Dane Kondić, has defended the airline's decision to reduce its flight offering during the winter months saying, "The one thing that we have always had in our minds, from the very beginning, is a commercial mandate. Flying empty aircraft over the winter just to keep a schedule is crazy. So, last winter we had two years of experience behind us, meaning to say that we had two summers and two winters, and therefore we knew exactly where the pain points were in the network ... We took out capacity, for sure, and there was criticism from some that it was too much, we didn't break the connectivity, we certainly did lose some connectivity, but we pulled back frequency and so we tried to keep the integrity of where we flew relatively intact".
Over the past two years a number of carriers have either suspended or significantly reduced their operations at Belgrade Airport, among which are Wizz Air, Swiss International Air Lines, Germanwings and easyJet. Air Serbia's Chairman, Siniša Mali, who is also the Mayor of Belgrade, said the airline is much more aggressive and competitive compared to its predecessor, which has had an impact on foreign airlines. On the other hand, Russian carrier Ural Airlines recently launched services from Moscow to the Serbian capital, while Norwegian Air Shuttle, TAROM and Flydubai will boost frequencies on their existing services to Belgrade this summer. It comes in the lead-up to the airport's planned privatisation or concession. The French-based asset management company Lazard will most likely be chosen as the government's advisory in the process.
Belgrade Airport handheld 313.174 passengers this March, a decrease of 0.7 compared to the same month last year. The number of aircraft movements stood at 4.312, down 3.7%. During the past quarter, the airport welcomed 870.014 travellers through its doors, a decrease of 2.1%, while the number of flights operations fell 4% to 12.386. Despite underperforming over the past two quarters, Belgrade Airport handled a record 4.776.164 passengers in 2015.