The opening of Užice Ponikve Airport, in western Serbia, scheduled for late August, has been delayed after little work was done on erecting a perimeter fence and installing a new lighting system over the summer. In April, the airport opened a new passenger terminal and overhauled its apron. According to local authorities, the opening has been delayed as the finances required to complete the work were miscalculated and additional funding will be needed. "It turns out that an additional three million euros are required. The formation of the [Serbian] government over the past two months has also slowed things down", the Mayor of Užice, Tihomir Petković, said. He added, "However, we are not giving up on the project. Realistically, work will not be completed this year, but it is important that it starts this year and is completed in 2017".
Užice Airport was destroyed during the 1999 NATO bombing. However, the Serbian government and the European Union have jointly invested over one million euros into the creation of a project masterplan, while significant funds were put into the removal of unexploded bombs around the airport's runway. Its control tower was reopened in 2013 following a major overhaul by the Serbia and Montenegro Air Traffic Services Agency, while Belgrade Airport also donated funds. "We were recently contacted by an investment fund from Saudi Arabia that is interested in buying the airport. The fund sent a contract and asked us for an offer. We have requested for the government to make a decision because it should not be up to us to decide whether it is in the state's interest to sell the airport and we are not certain whether this is a feasible option at this time", Mr Petković said.
Earlier this year, the General Manager of Užice Airport, Saša Savić, said, "There is interest for flights, especially from foreign tourists who would like to visit nearby Zlatibor Mountain and Mokra Gora. We are already in talks with a local hotel in Zlatibor and have discussed the possibility of operating promotional charters to several European countries (Cyprus, Greece, Russia and Slovenia) with both smaller and larger aircraft, including Boeing jets with the capacity to seat 150 passenger". He added, "If these prove successful, we hope to have regular charter flights next year. At this point, we are partially ready to handle passengers. By the end of August a perimeter fence will be erected, a lighting system will be installed, which will allow aircraft to use the airport at low visibility, and we will then be fully equipped to welcome travellers".
The Užice region is home to some of Serbia's most exported goods. However, it is also close to several major cities in the former Yugoslavia, with Sarajevo and Belgrade just 118 kilometres away. During the 1996 summer season, JAT Yugoslav Airlines operated a two weekly Belgrade - Užice - Tivat service. Over the past few years, small private aircraft have used the airport during the daytime. Užice is Serbia's thirteenth largest city and the administrative centre of the Zlatibor District. It has a fairly developed road and rail network. The entire redevelopment of the airport is valued at nineteen million euros. Questions have been raised whether the project is viable, following the construction of a modern passenger terminal in Kraljevo, in central Serbia in 2012, which has not been used since.