In just ten days, Constantine the Great Airport in Niš was left without four flights, which have been suspended or will soon be suspended by Ryanair, Swiss Air and Air Serbia, which flies from Niš with the help of government subsidies.
Some of the suspended lines were commercial and the reason for their closure was the dissatisfaction of foreign airlines with the Serbian government’s “service policy” towards Air Serbia and the concessionaire of Belgrade airport, the French company Vinci, which, according to foreign airlines, “is harmful to other air carriers”.
Low-cost carrier Ryanair will discontinue flights from Stockholm’s Skavsta to Niš in late March 2020. In a statement to EX-YU Aviation News, the airline said, “The route from Niš to Stockholm Skavsta will not operate as of April 2020, as we continually review each of our 2.100 routes and put together a schedule based on many factors including base availability, historical route performance and market demand. However, we’ll continue offering the lowest fares from Niš to Berlin, Bratislava, Malta and Milan Bergamo next summer”.
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The last flight between Skavsta Airport and the south-east Serbian city is scheduled on March 28th. Last week, Ryanair decided not to fly from Hahn to Niš anymore, but rather replace Niš with Banja Luka (in Bosnia and Herzegovina), after the carrier was unable to secure a flight permit,
“The Stockholm-Niš route operated well, with over 90% of tickets sold per flight. This does not mean that it was profitable for Ryanair, due to the high number of discounted tickets, especially in the winter season. For the time being, we can only speculate on the commercial aspect, but I am sure that it was not decisive in deciding to suspend flights. If it were only for commercial reasons, the flight would have been immediately interrupted and there would not have been a winter season when the ticket prices are much lower,” says Bojan Avramović, former director of the Regional Development Agency ‘Jug’.
Avramović also says that Ryanair and Swiss will fly from Niš “with some routes still for some time, regardless of all efforts of the government and the Ministry of Transport to remove them. Thanks to this unsuccessful model, Niš Airport will struggle to reach a figure of 1 million passengers per year, which is stipulated as the maximum for all airports within a radius of 230 kilometres from Belgrade’s Nikola Tesla Airport Belgrade in a concession contract concluded with Vinci.
The National Coalition for Decentralization (Nacionalna koalicija za decentralizaciju) has estimated that lowcost flights to Frankfurt and Zurich seem to fall victims to Air Serbia, which flies to Frankfurt and Friedrichshafen. The state acquiring ownership and management of the airport of Constantine the Great, which previously belonged to the city of Niš, was obviously aimed at expelling low-cost airlines from Niš, said this organization, which is part of the initiative “Ne damo niški aerodrom” (“We are not giving up on Niš Airport”).
In October, only 12,000 seats on Air Serbia’s flights, out of a total of 28,000, were sold.
“Despite being privileged, subsidized and protected, in October this year, Air Serbia managed to transport barely 12,000 passengers on all 11 subsidized lines, and the carrier’s capacity is around 28,000 seats. This is official information from the Belgrade airport’s website. This means that the occupancy rate of Air Serbia’s aircraft is below 40 per cent, which is a major problem in both traffic and financial terms,” says Bojan Avramovic.
Air Serbia recently cancelled the Niš-Budapest route due to the weak interest. Immediately afterwards, Swiss Air suspended the Niš-Zurich route, which, according to available information, was commercial.
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