Europe's busiest airline, Ryanair, is to continue expanding in the former Yugoslavia next year with two new routes already announced from its seasonal base in Zadar, potential new services from Niš, Dubrovnik and Montenegro, as well as continued interest in the Bosnian and Slovenian markets. Zadar Airport and local authorities are currently in talks with the budget carrier concerning the 2017 summer season. Ryanair has announced it will introduce new flights from Glasgow and Copenhagen to the Croatian city. However, subsidies still remain an issue. Zadar owes the no frills airline 612.000 euros in incentives. The carrier was the busiest operating out of the city this year, accounting for 325.000 passengers, or 65% of all travellers passing through the airport so far in 2016.
Ryanair entered the Serbian market this September with operations to Niš, which is now served from four cities. Presenting its plans for 2017, the carrier's Sales and Marketing Manager for Greece, Cyprus, Malta, Croatia, Montenegro, Serbia and Israel, Chiara Ravara, said, "In 2017 we will handle 120.000 passengers to and from Niš and support ninety jobs. We will continue developing our operations throughout next summer and we look forward to opening additional services in the future". It is believed Ryanair is in talks with local authorities over flights from Paris, Barcelona and Malta. Ryanair's Chief Commercial Officer, David O'Brien, recently said, "We have been planning our arrival onto the Serbian market for a long time. It will take a while to judge whether it was a wise decision but considering loads on our flights, we believe that the Serbian market has great potential". He also blasted the national carrier Air Serbia saying, "What we certainly will soon see, for example, in Serbia, if there is the political will, is a requirement for Air Serbia to repay its debt to Belgrade Airport, which it will be unable to do, in our opinion". Under a takeover agreement between Etihad Airways and the Serbian government, Air Serbia has been exempt from paying a number of service charges at Belgrade Nikola Tesla Airport until January 27, 2016. According to the airport's financial reports, Air Serbia has made full payments since.
The low cost airline added its third route to Podgorica this September and is considering further expanding in the country next year. Ryanair launched flights to the Montenegrin capital in the summer of 2013 following two years of negotiations with the government. The airline introduced seasonal services from Charleroi, which have since been extended to year-round operations, and has also added flights from London Stansted and Berlin. The carrier is now revisiting plans to launch flights to Tivat. It initially intended to introduce services from London, Barcelona, Stockholm and Milan to the seaside city, however, high fees and a lack of incentives are believed to have delayed such plans. Ryanair’s Head of Communications, Robyn Kiely, told EX-YU Aviation News recently that the airline was satisfied with its performance on the Montenegrin market. “We are very pleased with our Podgorica operations, which continue to perform strongly”, Mr Kiely said.
Despite talks between Ryanair and local authorities concerning the introduction of flights to Dubrovnik this winter season, no deal has been reached. However, the carrier remains interested in launching services to the city. The budget carrier has requested for Dubrovnik Airport to reduce its fees and sign a multi-year agreement (until 2024) prior to it starting operations. Ryanair's Route Development Manager, Luis Fernandez-Mellado, said the budget carrier is willing to maintain year-round flights from Dubrovnik, describing it as an extremely interesting destination. Ryanair has so far avoided the city due to high fees, allowing its competitors, most notably easyJet, greater access to the market.
Last year, Ryanair confirmed it was in talks with the Macedonian government to launch services to Skopje. However, negotiations have stalled and the airline has turned its focus to neighbouring countries, primarily Bulgaria, Greece and Serbia. In Slovenia, a market which was once served by Ryanair, the carrier has criticised the government for selling Ljubljana Jože Pučnik Airport to Germany's Fraport, which it has accused of creating an airport monopoly throughout Europe. However, it was recently announced that the airline will begin operations from Frankfurt's main airport which is operated by Fraport. Slovenia is currently the only European Union member state which is not served by Ryanair, despite the airline holding a number of cabin crew recruitment events in Ljubljana over the past few months. Ryanair lodged a complaint with the European Commission against Adria Airways several years ago over state aid the carrier received from the Slovenian government. Adria was later cleared of any wrongdoing. Finally, on several occasions, Ryanair has negotiated with Mostar Airport over potential services to the city. Last week, local authorities said they are confident a low cost carrier will launch flights to Mostar next year.