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Sunday, February 1, 2015

Adria to lease back A320

A320 to return to Adria’s fleet this summer

Adria Airways will lease back one of its former Airbus A320 aircraft for the upcoming summer season, which is currently used by Danish Air Transport, “ch-aviation” reports. The jet, registered OY-JRK, was operated by Adria (as S5-AAS) from April 2011 until October 2014, before it was returned to the PAL Phoenix Aircraft Leasing company. The aircraft has the capacity to seat 180 passengers and operates in an all economy class layout. It is expected to enter service for Adria in April and has been leased until the end of the summer season in October. In the short-term, Adria plans to wet lease several A320-family aircraft in 2015, while a total of five or six jets will join the fleet by 2016. The Slovenian carrier recently leased a Bombardier CRJ700 from Lufthansa CityLine, which has since been stored at Ljubljana Jože Pučnik Airport. The aircraft will be stationed at the airline’s newest base in Lodz in Poland this summer.

In line with its fleet restructuring, the Slovenian carrier will phase out its two remaining CRJ200s from scheduled service by March. The airline will scrap one of the jets while the other will be used for charter flights. Meanwhile, Adria has sold and leased back two Bombardier CRJ900 aircraft in an attempt to stabilise its finances and pay off debt. Earlier, Adria’s CEO, Mark Anžur, said the carrier’s fleet will consist of sixteen CRJs and Airbuses by 2020. Adria has been a long time Bombardier customer, ordering its first aircraft from the Canadian plane manufacturer back in 1997. Adria Tehnika, which was once a subsidiary of the Slovenian carrier, but is now an independent company, serves as the regional maintenance centre for Bombardier jets.

The Airbus A320 has been a staple of Adria’s fleet since May 1989. The airline ordered five aircraft of the same type in 1985 with the first arriving almost 26 years ago, still operating under the Yugoslav flag. The jet delivered to Adria was the first to be powered by IAE engines and the first Airbus A320 ever to be registered in Yugoslavia. The A320 to be leased this summer entered commercial service 21.5 years ago. It is likely to be utilised primarily for charter flights to Greece, Egypt and Turkey.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Montenegro Airlines listed for sale

Montenegro Airlines to be privatised without airports

Initial procedures for the sale of Montenegro Airlines have begun after the country’s Privatisation Council, headed by Prime Minister Milo Djukanović, urged the government to sell its shares in the indebted carrier. The Ministry for Transport and Maritime Affairs has offered to sell a minority stake in the airline, which is to be offered to potential investors through an international tender. Furthermore, the Ministry has ruled out the sale of state-owned company Airports of Montenegro, which runs the country’s two international airports in Podgorica and Tivat. It is believed the move will significantly diminish the national carrier’s chances of finding a strategic partner.

Previous attempts privatise Montenegro Airlines have all failed. In 2009, Israel’s national carrier, El Al, teamed up with the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development in order to purchase a stake in Montenegro Airlines. El Al was interested in the carrier only if it gained control over Podgorica and Tivat airports as well, which the government deemed “unacceptable” at the time. In 2011, the Montenegrin government offered a 30% stake in its national airline. Arkia Israeli Airlines, El Al and Etihad Airways all purchased tender documentation but never made a takeover offer. Later that year, the government announced that Turkish Airlines was close to making a takeover bid for both the airline and the country’s airports but added it would not sell its national carrier at any cost. Plans to privatise the carrier in 2014 did not materialise either, however, the CEO of Montenegro Airlines, Daliborka Pejović, recently said, “Montenegro Airlines is in continuous contact with the Privatisation Council and is giving serious consideration to all letters of intent”. Earlier this month, the government admitted that potential investors have shown no interest in the airline.

Meanwhile, the French concession and construction company Vinci recently expressed interest in establishing a partnership with Airports of Montenegro. Over the years, several companies have eyed a stake in the operator, including the Turkish conglomerate Limak Holding. The CEO of Airports of Montenegro, Milovan Djuričković, who has run the company since 1999, has spoken out against attempts to privatise the two airports. “There can only be three reasons for privatising a company. One is if the management is bad, which in this case it isn’t, the second is if the company is unable to finance further development, which isn’t the case, and lastly if the government is strapped for cash. An airport is of strategic importance to a country”, Mr. Djuričković said. Last month, the International Air Transport Association (IATA), voiced its reservation over the privatisation of airports. The global airlines body said governments should resist the temptation of earning revenue through such exercises and evolve policies supportive to all players to spur growth in the aviation sector.

Montenegro Airlines becomes the third airline from the former Yugoslavia to be listed for privatisation this year, following Adria Airways and Croatia Airlines. Slovenia is seeking to sell a 96% stake in Adria, while the Croatian government has set up a commission for the privatisation of its national carrier. A tender for the submission of bids is expected to take place early this year.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Wizz Air eyes Memmingen - Niš service

Flights from Germany to Niš to launch this year or next

Low cost airline Wizz Air is expected to launch flights between Memmingen and Niš in late 2015 or early 2016, the head of the city’s Tourism Organisation, Uroš Parlić, has confirmed. “This service was discussed from the very beginning and Germany has been identified as a market with strong potential”, Mr. Parlić says. Last week, Wizz Air’s Executive Vice President, John Stephenson, said that even though the airline did not initially plan to introduce additional flights to the south-eastern Serbian city this year, flights from Germany could be considered by the end of 2015. The low cost airline will commence flights to Niš this summer with a three weekly service from Malmo, starting June 25, and two weekly flights from Basel, beginning July 3.

The head of the Tourism Organisation says Wizz Air opted for the Malmo service first, rather than Memmingen, as the airline’s research and analysis showed there is more interest for flights from Scandinavia than from Germany. Furthermore, Mr. Parlić believes Wizz Air will open a base at Constantine the Great Airport as early as next year. Meanwhile, Bojan Avramović, the head of the Regional Development Agency, has also confirmed that the low cost airline will introduce services from Memmingen to Niš in the coming period.

Niš Airport estimates that some 30.000 passengers will fly with Wizz Air from Malmo and Basel during the summer months. Furthermore, the airport is hopeful to attract charter carriers from Turkey and Greece during the holiday period. Last year, Turkey’s Freebird Airlines was to operate charters from Antalya to Niš, but the service was cancelled due to low interest. However, the airport is confident the flights could attract more travellers this time around due to its new pricing and a passenger tax of only three euros. On the other hand, local authorities have confirmed that Air Serbia has expressed no interest in operating commercial flights out of Niš for the time being.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

B&H’s future to be determined next week

Government to settle B&H Airlines’ fate

The Federation government of Bosnia and Herzegovina will settle on whether B&H Airlines should maintain operations or be shut down at a meeting next week, the outgoing Minister for Transport and Communication, Enver Bijedić, has said. The airline, which has been left with a single operational aircraft and mounting debt, has submitted its rescue plan to the government. “The proposal comes down to B&H Airlines requesting funds from the state budget to solve its problems”, minister Bijedić says. He adds, “We sent them back their proposal and ordered the airline’s management and Supervisory Board to draft a new proposal which will feature several alternatives for the company’s salvation. The fate of B&H Airlines will be known only after the government meets”.

B&H Airlines has outstanding debt towards HETA and the Hypo Alpe Adria Bank for the financial lease of its two ATR 72 aircraft, one of which has been grounded in Germany since the carrier is unable to pay for its maintenance. Furthermore, the airline owes money to Sarajevo Airport, several local and international suppliers, as well as its staff which haven’t been paid in months. In addition, the company is to repay 800.000 euros in passenger taxes to the Federation government which were initially intended for the carrier’s development. Last week, B&H Airlines’ acting CEO, Amir Jažić, said he feared it was “too late to save the company”. However, the Minister for Transport believes the airline could reprogram its debts, reduce its 100-strong workforce and launch new routes in order to recover. Furthermore, Mr. Bijedić believes the airline should become a true flag carrier, which would encompass both entities which form Bosnia and Herzegovina, rather than just the Federation.

Meanwhile, local media have suggested the newly established Bosnian Wand Airlines (BWA), has been set up with the intention of replacing B&H Airlines once it suspends operations. BWA, founded by the Al Wand group from Iraq, has been operating flights between Sweden and the Middle East for the past month. The airline was to commence operations from Sarajevo last week but has delayed its launch for a third time. Services are now set to start on February 20. BWA does not hold, nor has it applied, for an Air Operator’s Certificate (AOC) from Bosnia and Herzegovina. The company maintains operations with a Greek license instead. Commenting on BWA, B&H Airlines’ CEO says, “They are not an airline at all. They have aspirations to become one. However, there is a long way from aspirations to reality. They employ other companies to do their job and that is unlikely to be sustainable”.