Europe's busiest airline, Ryanair, will enter the Serbian market later this summer season with the introduction of two weekly flights from Berlin Schonefeld Airport to Niš from September 4. The announcement was made today at a press conference in the south-east Serbian city hosted by the no frills carrier. Tickets for the new route are now on sale, with the airline to roll out a Serbian version of its website as well. Flights will run each Thursday and Sunday with further details available here. Ryanair will compete directly against Wizz Air, which introduced flights from the city last year and has just announced the launch of its third route (Dortmund) from Niš in August. Serbia's Minister for Construction, Transport and Infrastructure, Zorana Mihajlović, said this morning, "This is excellent news for the entire public who will have the opportunity to fly to the German capital at affordable prices. It is also very good news for Niš and southern Serbia".
Ryanair's Sales and Marketing Executive, Chiara Ravara, said, “Ryanair is pleased to announce our entry into the Serbian market from September 2016, our 32nd country, with one new route to Berlin Schonefeld which will deliver 30.000 customers annually. Serbian customers can look forward to Ryanair service improvements in the coming months, including new aircraft interiors, new uniforms and more new routes, under our 'Always Getting Better' programme, as we continue to offer so much more than just the lowest fares". She added, "To celebrate our new route we are releasing seats from Niš to Berlin from €24.99 for travel in September to November, which are available for booking from tomorrow until midnight Wednesday (April 27). Since these amazing low fares will be snapped up quickly, customers should log onto www.ryanair.com and avoid missing out”.
Ryanair has a limited presence in the former Yugoslavia, with year-long flights to Podgorica and seasonal services to Rijeka, Pula and Osijek, as well as a summer base in Zadar. Closer to Niš, the airline plans to open a base in Sofia this winter season. As previously reported, Ryanair is putting a greater focus on the former Yugoslav market this year and is also considering flights to Mostar, Skopje, Ohrid and Tivat. Constantine the Great Airport lowered its fees last year, charging all airlines (both full fare and low cost) only three euros for handling, landing and passenger services. It anticipates welcoming a record 100.000 passengers this year. Germany, the United Kingdom, Italy and France have been earmarked as key markets for travel from and to Niš.
Niš Airport was opened for commercial use in the late 1980s and served by JAT Yugoslav Airlines. It was hit on several occasions and damaged during the 1999 NATO bombing campaign of Yugoslavia. In 2003 it was reopened following extensive reconstruction and development. The Niš region has a catchment area of over one million people with a sizable number of locals now living abroad in western and northern Europe. Until Wizz Air's arrival, the airport struggled to attract customers. One of the challenges in attracting foreign carriers is the lack of a category one instrument landing system (ILS) at the airport, which provides guidance to aircraft approaching and landing on a runway during low ceilings or reduced visibility due to fog, rain or snow. The Serbia and Montenegro Air Traffic Services Agency (SMATSA), which manages the airspace of both countries, is expected to install the equipment at the airport by 2017. In the meantime, equipment for measuring the runway visual range (RVR), which aids the pilot during limited visibility, will be used.