Halfway through the year, there have been some significant developments for the national carriers from the former Yugoslavia. Adria Airways has been fully privatised, Air Serbia launched transatlantic flights, Croatia Airlines completed its restructuring process and the depth of Montenegro Airlines' financial issues have been made public. We now look forward to the rest of the year and what lies in store for the four carriers.
Adria Airways' upcoming winter operations will mark its first full season under new management. The German turnaround fund, 4K Invest, which now owns a 100% stake in the company, has been swift in terminating unprofitable routes and reducing the workforce. So far this year, the airline has suspended flights from Ljubljana to Istanbul and Stockholm and from Tirana to Brussels and Paris. The carrier has already announced plans to terminate flights from Ljubljana to Berlin this winter and turn it into a summer-only destination. On the other hand, Adria has confirmed it will boost frequencies on flights to Warsaw, despite competition from LOT, as well as on the recently launched Pristina - London and Olsztyn - Munich routes. Furthermore, it will add additional departures from Lodz to Paris. The Slovenian carrier also plans to conclude codeshare agreements with Sky Team-members Air France and KLM, on its flights to Paris and Amsterdam. In addition, it will continue its cooperation with the Estonian national carrier Nordica, which uses Adria's Air Operators Certificate (AOC), for at least another year, after which the two will broaden their partnership.
Following the successful launch of Air Serbia's first transatlantic service, all eyes will be on the route's performance in the coming months. The company's Chairman, Siniša Mali, has noted that introducing long haul services naturally leads to the addition of other far-away destinations. "Other cities in the United States and Canada are of interest but we are also looking at some other places", Mr Mali said on Wednesday. However, he refused to give any firm time-frame as to when new long haul flights could be introduced, saying only that the airline will first focus on its New York route. New transcontinental services would require additional wide body aircraft. Meanwhile. both Air Serbia and Etihad Airways will strengthen their partnership. Air Serbia's CEO, Dane Kondić, has confirmed that the airline will open a new call centre in Belgrade this October catering for all companies which from part of the Etihad Airways equity alliance. Furthermore, the Serbian carrier is in the process of overhauling its catering facilities, while Etihad Aviation Group CEO, James Hogan, said other forms of cooperation are currently being discussed.
The successful completion of Croatia Airlines' restructuring process has allowed the carrier to open new routes, all of which will be maintained only during the summer. Despite plans to privatise the carrier, the recent collapse of the Croatian government will delay the process even further. Fresh elections are not expected for at least another four months. As a result, the airline will continue with its current strategy. During the coming winter it will prepare for the establishment of new bases in Sarajevo, Pristina, Skopje and Tirana and should finalise an order for new regional jets. While the carrier says it is in discussion with all plane manufacturers, it is believed to be leaning towards Bombardier jet-engine aircraft. Furthermore, the Croatian carrier is preparing for its shift to Zagreb Airport's new terminal building, which opens next March. The airline has hired additional staff to help with the transition.
Montenegro Airlines' financial issues have come to a head. Over the past few months there have been warnings of industrial action from staff, the company's management board has been reshuffled yet again and a new Finance Minister has threatened to cut off funding. The company will now create a new restructuring plan which should be based on realistic indicators, in order to offer its founder, the government, a viable model of governance that will fully justify its existence. Although slated for privatisation this year, this is unlikely to happen. While there has been interest from several companies for the acquisition of Montenegro Airlines, it has so far been insufficient to warrant the start of tender procedures. Under a commercial cooperation agreement with Etihad, which is under investigation for unknown reasons, the Montenegrin carrier is looking to improve and rationalise its operations during the winter. As a result, it plans to lease out some of its aircraft.