Low cost airlines arriving in 2009

Belgrade Nikola Tesla Airport is aiming to attract at least 2 low cost airlines by mid 2009 to compliment the current two operating to Serbia’s main hub – German Wings and Norwegian Air Shuttle. The airport management will lower its handling costs in order to attract more low cost companies. The airport is organising a summit in November where low cost airline representatives have been invited to discuss possible destinations to Belgrade. The airport will lower its handling costs by 10-20% and will allow low costers to choose handling services that they wish Belgrade Airport to conduct, an option unavailable for scheduled airlines. One of the main obstacles for low cost carriers is the visa regime currently in place on behalf of the European Union towards Serbia which does not allow Serbs to travel without visas to a large amount of European countries. These visas are costly and difficult to get. This visa regime however should come to an end during 2009.

The low cost airline most interested in operating to Belgrade is Fly Nikki from Vienna which requested to start operations during summer 2008 although this was made impossible due the agreement between Austria and Serbia which only allows 2 airlines to operate between the two countries (this right is exercised by Jat Airways and Austrian Airlines). Wizz Air is expected to be the other low cost airline anticipating to start operations to Serbia next year.

The reason these talks with low cost airlines have been delayed is in order to protect the struggling national carrier Jat. However with the new development strategy the Serbian Aviation Directorate expects that Jat will grow as low cost airlines arrive and will therefore not affect the national carrier. When analysed Wizz Air is potentially the most harmful to Jat’s existence especially if they commence flights from their hub in Budapest. Malev, the national airline of Hungary, had been rejected flying rights to Serbia for years as it would attract many Jat passengers and Jat has also been staying clear of Hungary due to the same reason.

Jat Airways has responded today by lowering prices to its entire European network.