The Montenegrin Civil Aviation Agency is keeping a close watch on Montenegro Airlines as part of the carrier's fleet has been grounded, while the country's Prime Minister has ordered an urgent review into the company's business. Montenegro Airlines has been beset by a number of issues since the start of the year, with three of its aircraft grounded due to technical problems, while the majority of its first officers have gone on a silent protest due to unpaid wages. "Immediately after receiving word that part of the airline's co-pilots have not shown up to work, the Agency took measures to asses passenger safety. Based on preliminary reports, we cannot conclude that the safety and wellbeing of passengers has been compromised. However, our safety inspectors continue to monitor Montenegro Airlines and will use all legal means if necessary to protect travellers. The company is facing serious problems but has managed to maintain operations and adhere to the law for now", the head of the regulator, Mileta Nikolić, said.
Montenegro Airlines has been forced to cancel a number of services over the past week with only two of its aircraft operational. One Fokker 100 jet has been grounded at Belgrade Airport since January 1 with an engine problem, while an Embraer E190 has been parked in Podgorica awaiting spare parts. According to Montenegrin media, the company has been unable to purchase the spare parts immediately due to financial issues, however, the aircraft has been repaired over the last few days. Last Friday afternoon another of the carrier's aircraft was grounded after it was hit by lightning. Montenegro Airlines previously said it would maintain operations with four aircraft this winter season (three E190s and one F100), while an additional F100 jet would be used only if necessary. The carrier is looking into concluding a short-term wet-lease of aircraft and crew from Air Serbia in order to carry out its planned operations in the coming days, reports suggest.
In a statement, the office of the Prime Minister of Montenegro said, "The President of the Government of Montenegro, Duško Marković, has instructed the Minister for Transport and Maritime Affairs, Osman Nurković, under whose portfolio the state-run Montenegro Airlines belongs, to promptly prepare and submit detailed information about the current situation at the national carrier. The Prime Minister has requested an urgent and comprehensive report concerning the recent problems at Montenegro Airlines. Furthermore, Prime Minister Marković has also asked for detailed information on the overall state of the company's finances and human resources, stressing that the current issues need to be resolved as soon as possible". In a recent interview, Mr Marković said, "The government holds a 99.9% stake in Montenegro Airlines and can offer 50% minus one share to a foreign partner. In the coming period, the government will work on stabilising and improving the company and consider privatising it. A minority stake would be offered through an eventual tender".
A number of high profile resignations have swept Montenegro Airlines over the past six months starting with its Chief Commercial Officer in September 2016, followed by the head of Safety and Security in October, as well as the President of the Board of Directors, Daliborka Pejović, in December last year. As a result, new members of the Board, as well as its head, will be selected on January 27. Montenegro Airlines faced a difficult 2016 during which the government cut its financial support for the carrier. The company was also forced to return one Embraer jet to its owner as it was no longer able to afford the financial lease. In 2015, Montenegro Airlines recorded a loss of 10.4 million euros, while its debt amounted to over sixty million euros. The carrier has reported that its finances improved throughout 2016 but its financial report is yet to be published.