Niš hoping for flights

Smaller EX-YU airports continue to struggle
Niš Constantine the Great Airport in Serbia is negotiating with several airlines to commence flights to the city, the CEO of the airport told Serbian media. The airport currently only has 7 weekly flights to Podgorica, operated by Montenegro Airlines, which are subsidised by the local authorities. “I cannot disclose which airlines are in question but I am optimistic that talks will be finalised soon”, Dragan Bugarinović, the airport’s CEO says. Recently, Adria Airways announced it was considering introducing flights from Ljubljana to Niš.

In 2010 the airport handled 23.650 passengers, an increase of 38% compared to 2009. In the first few months of 2011, the airport is continuing to report passenger growth, with a 40% jump compared to the same period last year. In 2010, the low cost Italian airline, Wind Jet, operated flights to the city but were eventually suspended as subsidies for the route dried up. The airport also had financial problems last year, although Belgrade Airport eventually bailed it out by providing much needed funds. Jat Airways has refused to operate flights from Niš in the past few years saying that it is unprofitable to operate services to the city (unsubsidised).

Small secondary airports in the EX-YU region, such as Niš, have been struggling for years. Banja Luka, Mali Lošinj, Portorož, Tuzla, Mostar and Maribor all report minimal services throughout the year and most are struggling financially. However, governments continue to open airports throughout the region with the Croatian Government recently announcing it will go ahead with plans to construct an airport on the island of Korčula. The Serbian Government is funding the construction of an airport in Kraljevo while Montenegro is keen on building an airport in Berane.


  1. Peter from Sydney09:17

    Why must all these little airports even exist? Talking from local experience here in Sydney, Sydney airport is the only terminal for international and extensive domestic travel for over 5 million people in the catchment area. What's the point of Nis Airport when Belgrade for anyone is only a couple of hours away? Once the south of Serbia becomes more industrialised and urbanised, I could see the argument for Nis, but for now and for the foreeable future, it's pointless!

  2. Anonymous10:36

    Instead of investing in airports which are 100km from the country’s main airport it would be smarter to invest money into railways and roads to connect the two cities so one can get there faster. It’s nice to see INI having more passengers but I’m certain their finances are getting worse and worse by the year (same with the other airports mentioned in the article). It is beyond me who they plan to attract to fly to Kraljevo! Maybe Adria. They seem to have a knack of flying to such airport

  3. Viva south Serbia10:39

    FoR Peter from Sydney:

    Let's all move to Belgrade and lived there all 6, 7 million people. What do you think of the idea????

    Of course, that City of Nis need the airport, this is normal everywhere in the world that there are at least two airports in the country. Usually Nis airport is alternate for Belgrade and regional airport..
    Also in the south of Serbia lives for 2 000 000 people. Think about whether they have a right to be like normal people in europe.

  4. Stojan Nis10:42

    That is not secret.

    From Nish will be fly Karpat Air to Rome or Rimini, and Adria Airways to Ljubljana.

    However, only a Montenegro Airlines offers a variety of destinations and a real window to the world. So for now ... Thank MGX!

  5. Peter from Sydney11:06

    @ Viva south Serbia, I have no problem with Nis Airport, what I do have a problem with is using tax payers money to subsidise the airport and flights to it, that clearly no one is using! Currently Nis is not an alternative to Belgrade since no one actually uses it!

  6. Dreamliner11:12

    Peter, do not forget that Sydney airport will be moved away soon, that airport it will be only domestic, international will be between Goulburn and Sydney , but that's gossip at the moment. Sydney need 24 hours airport , not only till 22:30pm.

    Nis, I still can't bealive that can't work very well, such a good location.

  7. @ viva.

    No one is saying "everyone move to Belgrade"

    What's being said, if you can pay careful attention, is that, in an economy that's in the low, low state that Serbia is in, it makes no sense to use public funds to fund a project that will only lose money.

    It's been said already, but it would make much, much more sense to build proper rail infrastructure to Belgrade and BG airport.

    Trains in Serbia travel 50km/hr!!! In the civilized world they travel 300+km/hr.

    Surely it would make more sense to develop rail infrastructure (that more people would use, not just travelling to BG to fly, than to throw money into a pointless black-hole

  8. Anonymous11:33

    Yeah but I am sure that Delta wants to launch New York-Nis-Berane flights! :P

    On a side note, the Serbian government could make three airports work. Belgrade, Nis and Ponikve (during winter time).
    The rest is just a waste of time and money.
    Kraljevo's airport is utter nonsense and is a complete waste of money.

  9. I will reiterate the point that I made yesterday, if these smalleexyu airports want to be successful then they seriously need to consider introducing regional routes. i.e. Nis-Sofia, Nis-Tivat, Nis Bucharest, Nis Ljubljana, Nis-Banja Luka, Nis-Sarajevo, Nis-Rome. Flying out any further than this will result, in drastic loses. We need a change in attitude to how we run our companies in the exyu republiks we need more competent people.

  10. I also forgot to mention the Kopaonik ski resort nearby. Ive been there many times, its got huge potential. If its potential wed open the doors for Nis to become then that would open the doors for Nis to become a successful airport

  11. Sorry for the gramatical errors my computer keeps freezing so certain words have been left out.

  12. Anonymous12:10

    Nis to Sofia?? Isn't Sofia only 60 km from Nis?

    These routes will not be successful simply because people in the Balkans are not that wealthy to be able to purchase those kind of tickets.
    If they want to attract people to fly in there then they need to target the wealthy countries such as the UK, Scandinavia and Germany.
    Good thing with these markets is that they will have the O&D market to reply upon until the numbers go up.

  13. It's interesting how people are reasoning here. Whether an airport is profitable or not is not just a matter of its catchment area. The main reason most of ex YU small airports are white elephants is that local airlines have no fleet to serve those airports. New Zealand has 26 commercial airports and the total population of 4 mil people and yet domestic traffic is profitable. What is the point of operating a BEG-BNX service for example if the aircraft used is larger than the needed, the timetable is ludicrous and the fares are ridiculous? Small airports should be used for feeder services, but the time table should provide fast and efficient connection in hubs. Let's leave politics aside and look at what the market needs.

  14. JU520 BEGLAX12:39

    @anonymous Nr. 1

    fully agree with you. To have airports like maybe in Germany you need also the potential of passengers, e.g. a good economy etc. A good economy we don t find in any of the ex YU republics. Much smarter are investments into the infrastructure such as highways, rail links etc.
    If tourists are visiting the Graubünden Region they fly to ZRH and take the train, same for the Valais Region, either GVA or ZRH plus a train ride of 2-3 hours. Even in a country like Switzerland with big potential of passengers you don t have airports in each corner. ZRH is the main gateway. GVA and BSL live a good part from the neighbouring countries France and Germany.
    And despite having a nice touristic potential in the Sion area, no airline operates there. Altenrhein with the VIE flights is struggling since years too.

    All this hopers and dreamers in these little airports are far away from the reality. Let them dream on, it s just a rascality that they are using tax payers money to subsidize strange ideas and most probably filling their own pockets...
    Portoroz e.g. is such a small city and in a radius of 1 hour 15min driving you have LJU,TRS,RJK,PUY and even ZAG with maybe max 2 hours. If people skiing in Davos or Engadin area can afford to travel 2-3 hours by train, I don t know why tourists from Portoroz can t fly to TRS,LJU or PUY.

    Nis is apx 240 km from BEG away. A high speed train could limit the travel to 1.5 hours. That s good enough.

  15. Purger13:43

    @ JU520 BEGLAX

    In Switzerland you have much more airports than 3 which have scheduled passengers service:

    BSL - Basel
    BRN - Bern
    GVA - Geneva
    LUG - Lugano (Zurich)
    SIR - Sion (seasonal to Calvi, Figari, Olbia, London Stansed)
    ACH - St.Gallen - Altenrhein (Vienna)
    ZRH - Zurich 7 airports with scheduled passengers service, and another 13 sport-business airports (all together 20 airports) on little country.

  16. frequentflyer14:02

    @ Lento

    Sure, but how many of these routes in New Zealand are PSO (Public Service Obligation), which are subsidised by the national government and no competition to the state-owned carrier is allowed? Please compare apples with apples in this regard!

    This might have something to do with it. What could have a been profitable line to a secondary airport in a unified country suddenly isn't when it is an international flight, and fares go up significantly when it is not a domestic flight.

    Two pre-breakup lines that were deemed highly successful before but are no longer in existence are OMO-ZAG and SKP-DBV, both of which operated daily. Will we see either back without substantial government backing? NO!

    Can anyone provide a list of how many of these 'smaller' airports had frequency (provided by JU, JP or other) in 1990/1 (pre-breakup)??

  17. @ Lento

    It's very difficult to compare New Zealand and Ex-Yu. Please note that New Zealand is an island nation and to get from one island to another, taking an airplane is pretty much the only way. Yes, you can go by boat/ferry, but if you are a business person and don't have too much spare time, I highly doubt you are going to take a boat. Due to New Zealand's remote geographic location, air transportation plays an important part in country's economy and its connection with the rest of the world. Air New Zealand's direct AKL-LHR flight says it all.

  18. Anonymous15:23

    I can see Nis and Kraljevo as cargo airports. In that sense, it would be good to establish airports in the cities. But for passengers, it does not make much sense. they are too close to Belgrade as someone already said.

    The smartest investment the cities could make would be to establish a high-speed rail line from those cities (and others) to Belgrade. Obviously they need the money, but that woul be of much better use and help the infrastructure more. Once trains equal the speed of airplaines, aviation loses...

  19. Dreamliner15:45

    @ Sam,
    I think NZ fly to LHR via LAX it's not non- stop. True if u take ferry from Picton to Wellington is about 2 hours, and ticket is around 100$NSF, from CHC to AKL is around 100$nzd , so sometimes is stuped to compare well developed country with ex YU , and at the end ppl don't use all 26 airports, main number comes from AKL and CHC , rest is all domestic and military, ex YU need investments like ppl said before in roads , high ways, , high speed trains etc. The airports just need upgrade, all of them can handle double passengers then that what's predicted. For sure it's possible train beg-skp to travel the distance in 4-5 hours instead 9-10 hours, so ppl then will use more train than plane, like in case between bur/cdg to London all airports.

  20. @ Sam and frequentflyer

    Domestic air traffic in NZ is not subsidised, i.e. there are no PSO routs. Air NZ revised its domestic operations after the collapse of Ansett (it owned 100% of Ansett) and introduced inventive fare structure that proved so successful that it was later introduced to its Pacific Islands, Trans Tasman and ultimately international services. Trunk routes (between AKL, CHC and WLG) are operated with A320/B737, while other routes are operated with smaller aircraft, ranging from 13 to 70 seats, owned and operated by Air NZ's daughter companies. I do agree that some of the distances in NZ are not worth travelling any other way than by air, but even short routes are profitable (CHC-BHE, CHC-NSN, CHC-HKK, WLG-PMR, etc.). It's the fares and timetables that matched the demand that boosted domestic air travel. On top of all that, Air NZ reshuffled its loyalty programme and enticed people to travel more. Needless to say that Air NZ's service on board is great with very friendly cabin crew. Air NZ's fare model has been "copied" by other airlines with more or less success. Anyway, returning to our ex YU region, I for one travel extensively through the region and I know that neither fares nor schedules, not to mention the service, meet my needs as a business traveller. Just imagine how wonderful it would be if I could hop on a plane on Friday afternoon, fly to Brac or Losinj or Ohrid and return on Sunday evening. What about a ski weekend in Kranjska Gora or Jahorina? There is certainly space for lots of intra ex YU services, but airlines have to recognise the potential. Alas the general characteristic of all ex YU airlines is megalomania - big planes, big plans and poor results.

  21. @ Dreamliner

    You're right, Air NZ has AKL-LAX-LHR and AKL-HKG-LHR flights (both daily). It operated flights to FRA, but they were abandoned, as well as flights to SIN from AKL and CHC.

  22. JU520 BEGLAX16:08


    We have airports yep that s right, but u can t compare Serbia with Switzerland. Switzerland is one of the strongest economies worldwide, the average net income is somewhere around 5500 USD where Serbia/MN/Kosovo is probably around 250 USD. We have millions of Tourists flying in each year etc etc.

    You come up with Sion. Sion had last year scheduled 2946 passengers on 72 flights and less than 1000 passengers on Charter flights. Even there is flights to Sardinia, King Air Beechcrafts 200 are used with 9 pax. It s not even worth mentioning this.

    LUG has flights to Italy, ZRH and GVA, some charters as well. But LUG is not Nis. LUG is important for Business traffic and is a nice holiday destination.
    Altenrhein is struggling, right now served by two Carriers to VIE, eventhough there is only room for one. (JU flew years ago to Altenrhein).
    BRN did in the past 2 years lit bit over 100'000 pax per year.
    And BRN is more than just a normal airport it s also the airport of the capital with lots of government flights etc.

    But if I m mean airport, we speak of airports over 500 000 pax per year and not each single sportsfield somewhere in the Pampas.

    At the end of the day, all what counts is how much economy is around an airport?

  23. Viva from south....

    Unfortunetly i will be honest and say the amount of people from that 2million that can afford to use a airport to travel or have the need to is considerably less and when they do travel maybe even if that once a year they might as well get on a bus that comes every 20minutes from all bus stop to belgrade and go to the airport it doesnt make sence.

  24. Dreamliner16:17

    @ Lento

    I will come this winter (end July) Queenstown , really like to see that airport in winter, apparently that's when the most pax are coming. U know why, cos of the season :) , do u know how air Asia is doing from CHC to KUL , I bought ticket for $89 ow, only problem is they didn't match the time table with Australian cities , DJ , QF and JQ. It was cheaper to travel from CHC to ORY then the price I paid to CHC.
    I think Everyone miss Ansett.
    Back to topic, long time I thought INI will take the most of the SKP pax, but I was wrong.

  25. To me it is very interesting that we do not see any 30 seater airline services to these regional airports in the Ex Yu from places such as Belgrade and Zagreb. As some have mentioned, good ticket price planning and time table is the key here. Also, nothing wrong with government money subsidising some routes IF the subsidiary is designed to boost the local economy, then you can look at it as an investment and not just a waist of tax payer’s money.

    Another point I want to make and that is about the high speed train. Too expensive to the point where it would be cheaper for the government to subsidise an A380 between Belgrade and Nis then build a high speed rail network. Based on reports on high speed rail projects in other parts of the world a similar rail network between Belgrade and Nis would cost $6 BILLION!!!!

  26. @ Lento and Dreamliner

    The non-stop and direct flight are not the same terms. A direct flight can have multiple stops but it carries the same flight number and usually the same airplane.

    Unfortunately,in terms of infrasturcture, Ex-Yu is decades behind not only NZ but many of our neighbouring countries too. We have a lot of potential in terms of tourism but with the current mentality and politics we won't get too far unless people realize that this kind of thinking won't get them anywhere.

    Nice to hear that the two of you have so much travel experience from all over the world. That's what's nice about this blog to exhange our ideas and see what could be done better for Ex Yu region. At the end, we all share common roots and used to live in the same country for many years.
    Pozdrav :)

  27. @ Dreamliner

    Unfortunately I have no information on how Air Asia is doing. As for ZQN, that is another example how demand is created. Years ago there were only seasonal flights from ZQN to SYD, but Kiwis managed to market ZQN as a year round destination and those flights are not seasonal any more. I don't see any reason why pearls in the ex YU region cannot be used to lure more incoming travellers. Unfortunately people in ex YU are not aware of what they've got and don't take advantage of it, but keep on bickering. Need one list all those places? Why wouldn't Ohrid be able to attract tourists? Does anyone know what a gem Bitola is? What about the mountains in Central Bosnia, Boka Kotorska, the entire Adriatic coast (not only DBV)? Let's start thinking outside the box and all those airports might prove to be very useful one day.

  28. @ Sam

    Spot on, mate! :-) Just one thing, as poor as the infrastructure in ex YU might seem, NZ has ridiculous infrastructure (apart from airports). Their roads cannot be compared to roads in Europe and railroads are even worse. But what they can be proud of is making their country famous for its beauty, which we in ex YU still haven't achieved. And believe me, ex YU has much more to offer in that sense than NZ, not to say that ex YU is not at the end of the world. :-)

  29. Intruder17:36

    Lately I have flown Hong Kong - Auckland by Air NZ B 777 -200, very clean aircraft, very nice flight attendants and good in-flight entertainment.
    Experiencing my business meetings in NZ I must say that the local economy, despite the recently suffered quake in Christchurch, is without any doubt much stronger than in the ex-Yu.
    We talk about a country with some 4,5 milion people, somehow like Croatia, where the maximum distance between Dunedin and Auckland is about 2.000 km.
    The air transport in NZ is very, very important.
    Also small airports like Nelson are connected by ATR42 to Auckland, with 3 daily flights. Nelson is just 250-280 km away.
    Minor airports are well connected by.small aircrafts there.

  30. JU520 BEGLAX17:46


    you don t build just a rail link Nis-Belgrade, it could be for example a project BUD-BEG-ATH or something similar. And 6 bn USD is just nothing....
    and with subsidizing an A380 from INI to BEG you don t attract much more economy. But with a rail link built for the next decades, plenty of other projects will follow, for example foreign investments etc and will pay off those 6 bn USD of investment one day

    Mobility is a key factor for economical growth

  31. I doubt it would cost 6 billion to build 300km of railroad tracks.

    Wouldn't have to be as good as today's high-speed rail.

    How about trains that travel 100km/hr.

  32. VIVA South Serbia19:22

    For dmijovic:

    Your coment is partially correct but it is so now and in future must be better.

    Also do not forget that 45 percent of the Diaspora living in southern Serbia ...., Aoni passengers are sure passenger ...!

  33. Purger21:00

    "But if I m mean airport, we speak of airports over 500 000 pax per year and not each single sportsfield somewhere in the Pampas"

    I just want to point that there are not 3 but 7 airports with regular flights, and there are! All those airport work (with or without profit) + 13 sport fields. And whan you say that airport of some 100.000 pax is not airport by that way not even Zadar is airport for you, and that airport is top priority for local economy.

    Airports of 250.000 pax are profitable. Airport of 100.000 pax in combination with sport planes, business and other general aviation planes, with military, police and resque flights + other use (like car race, panorma flights, presentation, comercial, school tours etc) can be profitable. Zadar is good example.

    Just think about Nis to have 100.000 pax.

  34. JU520 BEGLAX09:12


    agree with you. It s a combination for the small airports which makes their survival possible.


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