Low cost airline Wizz Air has based a second aircraft in Belgrade today and is to open four new routes, marking its first major expansion in the city following a public row with the airport in 2014. The jet arrived in the Serbian capital yesterday morning with flights to Friedrichshafen and Nuremberg launching today, while Hannover and Malta will follow over the weekend. The airline has scheduled a press conference in Belgrade at midday. All of its new routes will operate on a year-round basis, twice per week. Furthermore, it will boost frequencies on services to Dortmund, Eindhoven, Gothenburg, Memmingen and Stockholm Skavsta by adding an additional weekly flight. Wizz Air's CEO, Jozsef Varadi, said, “We are back in Belgrade after some turbulence. We are seeing significant demand for low cost flying in the country. We decided to deploy one more aircraft in Belgrade, our second Airbus A320 jet. It is a significant investment of around 100 million dollars. It will create 36 new jobs". He added, "This is the right stepping stone forward in this market which is unpenetrated. We are reacting to the increased level of demand".
Wizz Air's Belgrade expansion comes three years after it decided to significantly slash its operations from the city following a spat over fees. This resulted in the airline relocating one of the two aircraft it had stationed in Belgrade. At the time, the carrier said the city had become one of the most expensive in its network and accused "wannabe monopolists" Air Serbia and Etihad Airways of being behind the surge in fees. Commenting on the matter, Wizz Air's CEO said, “The airport charges are still high but the situation has changed. Over the last three years overall traffic has gone up 35%. Given the stronger than expected demand we decided that, despite the high airport charges, we would expand". The carrier noted that it would grow at a quicker pace if the fees were lower. "Should the charges come down we would do much more”, Mr Varadi added. This year, Wizz will offer 835.000 seats for sale to twenty destinations in seven countries from Belgrade and Niš.
The low cost carrier has now covered a number of destinations, particularly in Germany, which have been seeking services to Belgrade due to high demand. Other European airports which are also attempting to establish links with Serbia include Bordeaux in southern France, Brescia and Verona in northern Italy, as well as London Gatwick Airport. Furthermore, Madrid Airport has noted that 18.300 passengers travelled between the Spanish and Serbian capitals in 2015 (indirectly), while there were over 64.300 Internet searches for tickets between the two. In addition, Barcelona Airport, which has a seasonal link to Belgrade operated by Vueling, is seeking year-round flights to the city. In 2015, 14.719 passengers travelled with Vueling between the two cities, while a further 19.570 travellers flew indirectly between Belgrade and Barcelona. A total of 104.936 online ticket searches were made.
Wizz Air faces direct competition only on one of its four new routes from Belgrade, that being Malta. The budget airline will compete against Air Serbia, although the Serbian carrier maintains the service only on a seasonal summer basis, whereas Wizz will operate it throughout the year. Wizz Air has expanded its operation across the former Yugoslavia this year. In March it based a second aircraft in Tuzla and launched new destinations from the city, while it also commenced services from Budapest to Sarajevo, Pristina, Podgorica and Skopje. Furthermore, the airline will launch flights to Osijek today, while a new seasonal service from Katowice to Split will start in June. Later that month, the no frills airline will commence operations from London to Pristina, which will be followed by the stationing of its fourth aircraft in Skopje in July and the launch of three new routes as a result.