Another year has drawn to a close with 2016 proving to be one of the more eventful in commercial aviation in the former Yugoslavia. Over the past twelve months we witnessed Air Serbia launch transatlantic flights and introduce wide-body aircraft to its fleet, Adria Airways get sold, Croatia Airlines navigate its first post-restructuring year, Montenegro Airlines and Etihad Airways forge closer ties, as well as observe the historic passenger numbers at airports across the region. The year ahead promises to bring new developments for the national carriers.
Adria Airways is expected to expand its route network in 2017 with the airline’s new owners eager to prove that their consolidation measures over the past year have proven successful. "The new features in the winter timetable are just the beginning of changes to Adria's flight network. Adria Airways remains committed to providing a safe and comfortable service and to guaranteeing passengers the best possible travel experience. It will continue to build up its services and will be adding even more weekly flights in the future, thus offering passengers an even better choice of connections", Adria says. The airline now offers shorter connecting times in Ljubljana as it begins to shift towards its new strategy of transforming the airport into a transfer hub between Western and Eastern Europe. New destinations being considered for 2017 include points in Ukraine and the Middle East.
Air Serbia heads into 2017 with a mission to prove that its foray into the long haul market was a sound decision. Commenting on the route, the airline’s CEO, Dane Kondić, said recently, "We will be much wiser and smarter next year after having one summer and one winter behind us. I am very proud of what we have built and what we offer". Jitters of a possible severing of ties between the Serbian national carrier and its part-owner Etihad Airways were rebuffed recently, however, it remains to be seen whether cost cutting measures at the Emirati airline, and a review of its other European investments, namely Air Berlin and Alitalia, will have an impact. Air Serbia has also expressed interest in expanding operations next year, highlighting Iran and Central Asia as possible new markets.
Croatia Airlines has announced plans to expand considerably in the months to come with the acquisition of regional aircraft and the opening of bases across Southeastern Europe, as well as new routes out of Zagreb. However, questions remain whether the plans will materialise with a possible change in management. Croatia Airlines’ CEO, Krešimir Kučko, said in a recent interview, “New destinations [launched this year] all proved so successful, that we are going to keep them all. In fact, because of this summer’s success, we are planning to add an even larger number of new destinations next year". The carrier has also outlined plans to end operations to London Heathrow Airport by the second half of 2017, following the planned sale of its slots, however, this too is awaiting approval of the recently formed government.
Montenegro Airlines has boasted of improving its financial results fallowing historic losses in 2015. However, the carrier's President of the Board of Directors resigned this week, with a new chief to be brought in on January 27. Furthermore, 2017 will see the effects of the recently implemented wide-ranging codeshare agreement between the carrier and its Serbian counterpart. "The realisation of this agreement will boost passenger numbers during the winter season, which will generate additional revenue during the slow months when we operate fewer flights compared to the summer season. Our calculations show that we will have growth of at least 1.3 million euros in revenues next summer", Montenegro Airlines says. Plans suggest the carrier will add additional flights to Belgrade next year. Furthermore, it is looking to conclude similar deals with Air Berlin and Alitalia and move closer to the Ethad Aviation Group. However, recent troubles at the Emirati airline are likely to make Etihad more cautious over future tie-ups, diminishing Montenegro Airlines’ chances of becoming Etihad’s equity partner.
EX-YU Aviation News will focus on what’s in store for the region’s airports in 2017 in the coming weeks. With 365 news items this year, 440 news flashes and 100 vintage photos, that rounds off 2016 for EX-YU Aviation News.
Wherever you are in the world tonight
have a safe, happy and memorable New Year
See you in 2017!