Airports across the former Yugoslavia are putting a greater emphasis on cargo flights as a source of additional revenue. Zagreb Airport plans to challenge Ljubljana in the freight transport sector over the coming years, while Niš Airport in south-eastern Serbia is set to see its first scheduled cargo flights by the end of the month. Over the past three years, both Belgrade and Zagreb have seen a notable rise in cargo traffic, mostly as a result of the export of arms to the Middle East, while both Tuzla and Banja Luka have benefited from the export of meat and animal products to Turkey.
Belgrade Airport handles the greatest volume of cargo traffic in the former Yugoslavia. It is served by Turkish Airlines Cargo, European Air Transport and Swiftair on a regular basis, as well as a number of other carriers running ad-hoc charters. Starting October 31, Turkish Airlines Cargo will launch scheduled freighter services from Istanbul to Niš Constantine the Great Airport, the "eKapija" portal has learned. Previously, a promotional flight will operate on October 17. The airport, which already handles chartered freighter services, recently acquired a cargo loader. "We will have two to three weekly cargo flights next year. We need to have a substantial amount of cargo traffic in order to be financially sustainable for the city and self-sustainable by 2018", the head of the Regional Development Agency, Bojan Avramović, said concerning Niš Airport.
Ljubljana is second in terms of cargo traffic and it plans to continue pursuing this segment. Ljubljana Airport is used as the south-east European hub for DHL and UPS. "Last year we successfully implemented several projects with DHL and TNT, which will bear results this year and next. DHL has started flying to Ljubljana with a large Airbus A300 aircraft, while we are close to finalising a deal with TNT, which was purchased by FedEx, to move its operations to the airport", Ljubljana’s General Manager, Zmago Skobir, said recently. However, Zagreb Airport aims to challenge its Slovenian counterpart. Jacques Feron, the General Manager of Zagreb Airport, recently said the current passenger terminal, which will be closed in March 2017 following the opening of a new facility, will be used for freight storage and office space. Mr Feron said the airport will put a greater focus on cargo operations after the new terminal is completed. He added that despite its larger size, Zagreb lags behind Ljubljana in terms of cargo operations. According to Mr Feron, there is great potential in developing cargo traffic due to the airport's location and general demand. Zagreb Airport handled 9.225 tonnes of cargo in 2015, compared to Ljubljana's 10.140 tonnes.
This June, Turkish Airlines Cargo commenced scheduled operations from Istanbul to Tuzla Airport in Bosnia and Herzegovina for the export of meat and animal products. The carrier is expected to operate flights until November 30. “By the end of November, we anticipate exporting 5.700 tonnes of meat to Turkey on these flights. Over the past few months, we have built a cold storage facility which has the capacity to accommodate 65 tonnes of meat”, the General Manager of Tuzla Airport, Rifet Karasalihović, said. Banja Luka Airport has also put a greater focus on cargo operations. From November 2014 until mid-2016, it recorded 78 cargo flights, which were used for the export of 3.096 tonnes of frozen meat products. As part of its planned expansion, Banja Luka Airport will build a new cargo facility at the airport. “The cargo facility is the focus of the investment and will cater for requirements made by carriers concerning the protection and special conditions necessary for freight transport”, the CEO of operator Airports of Republika Srpska, Miroslav Janjić, said.
The operator of Macedonia's two international airports, Turkey's TAV, is still considering whether to build a cargo terminal in Štip, in the country's north-east as outlined in the concession agreement with the Macedonian government several years ago. Under the agreement, the cargo airport should be completed by 2020. TAV Holding CEO, Sani Sener, said last year that the company is ready to start construction promptly after receiving the inspection results on air currents and wind directions. The construction of the cargo airport has been delayed for several years because experts have not completed the meteorology study on wind currents in the Štip and Sveti Nikole region. This study should show where the ideal and safest location for the construction of a runway would be and whether the region is suitable for such an airport.