Montenegro Airlines has announced plans to form a strategic partnership with Etihad Airways, noting that its recent wide-ranging codeshare agreement with Air Serbia is the first in a series of steps to achieving this goal. The President of the carrier's Board of Directors, Daliborka Pejović, says that following the agreement with its Serbian counterpart, Montenegro Airlines will pursue similar deals with Aliatalia and Air Berlin, which are both partly owned by Etihad Airways. "We have been in talks with Etihad Airways for almost two years with the aim of securing a strategic partnership for our national carrier. After Air Serbia, we expect to hold talks with Alitalia and Air Berlin. This is the next step in our mission. Afterwards, we truly hope that we will meet the expectations of the government's Privatisation Council and get a strategic partner for the stable and sustainable future development of our national carrier", Ms Pejović said.
Montenegro Airlines' arrangement with Air Serbia, which will see it place its flight numbers and designator code on 32 destinations, thus allowing it to sell tickets on the Serbian carrier's flights, will come into effect on October 1. Montenegro Airlines already boasts codeshare agreements with Alitalia on its flights between Rome and Podgorica, as well as Adria Airways, Air France, Austrian and S7 Airlines. The carrier currently operates with a fleet of six aircraft, including one Embraer E190, three E195s and two Fokker 100s. However, the airline also faces significant financial problems with a record net loss of over ten million euros registered last year. It has recently emerged that despite its substantial debt, the carrier took out yet another loan in June for 800.000 euros, which must be payed back by September 30.
Ms Pejović conceded that the airline is dealing with a number of issues, further emphasising the need for a strong partner. "Personally, we all have the responsibility to keep this brand at all costs. Despite all the problems we have faced over the past three years we are successfully dealing with them and I believe we are making significant strides that probably no one expected of us in this situation. I hope we will keep moving forward at this same pace", Ms Pejović noted. In 2011, the Montenegrin government offered a 30% stake in its national airline. At the time, Etihad purchased the tender documentation but never made a takeover bid and the privatisation process ultimately failed. In November last year, the two carriers signed a Memorandum of Understanding for Strategic Commercial Cooperation.