Start-up airline AWEX Croatia has secured a Swiss charter contract to operate services from Zurich to Belgrade via Portorož. Flights are expected to launch today and operate once per week until September 24, each Saturday, with a 34-seat Saab 340B turboprop, with exception to today's inaugural service which will run with a smaller ten-seat aircraft. Flights could be extended if there is sufficient demand, however, tour operators such as MedAdria and Fly Fly Travel only recently began selling packages. A Polish Air Operator's Certificate (AOC) will be used. AWEX previously planned to maintain flights from Rijeka, Zadar and Brač to the Serbian capital during the summer, in addition to Portorož. Services between Belgrade and Portorož were last operated in 2010 by Jat Airways but were suspended due to a lack of aircraft.
The head of the Portorož Tourist Board, Igor Novel, says the route will attract Serbian holidaymakers visiting both Slovenia and Switzerland. "Serbs are becoming an increasingly important category of tourists due to the ownership structure of the Kempinski Hotel", Mr Novel said. The Kempinski Palace Hotel in Portorož is owned by Serbian businessman Miodrag Kostić whose company, the MK Group, recently expressed interest in purchasing Portorož Airport as well. According to Mr Novel, the new route is an opportunity to attract wealthier Swiss and Serbian guests to the coastal Slovenian city. The Vice President of the Supervisory Board of the Tourism Association, Tomi Matjaž, says, "The effects of the new route won't be felt overnight but this is an attempt to get things moving".
Commenting on the new service, the General Manager of Portorož Airport, Robert Krajnc, says, "The first few flights won't be as full since sales have just begun but all such projects require time. It is necessary to be patient". He adds that Portorž Airport could be used by travellers visiting the nearby Istria region in Croatia. "This was certainly the case when Jat Airways used to fly here and the flights were full", Mr Krajnc notes. Portorož Airport, which has no scheduled flights, handled 22.975 passengers last year. AWEX Croatia, established in 2012, is linked to businessman Marijan Tuškan, who managed Croatia's first privately owned airline, Air Adriatic, from 2006.