Sarajevo Airport seeks airline to open base in new subsidy tender

Sarajevo Airport has issued a public call for airlines to submit their proposals for the opening of a base in Bosnia and Herzegovina’s capital in 2023, in return for incentives. Interested carriers have 45 days to apply, after which talks will begin between Sarajevo Airport and the selected airlines. The airport launched a similar tender in 2020, which was won by Wizz Air. It was the only one to have applied. Wizz Air closed its Sarajevo base after just a year and a half earlier this month. However, unlike two years ago, the new call is not limited to low cost carriers and neither does it require for the airline to base two aircraft in the city.

Under the terms issued by Sarajevo Airport, interested carriers must open their base in Bosnia and Herzegovina’s capital next year in order to qualify for the incentives. The airline that offers the most destinations, frequencies and estimates handling the most passengers will be favoured in the selection process. Furthermore, the carrier that plans to increase traffic from the airport in 2024 and 2025 will have an advantage. Unlike two years ago, this time around the incentives are limited only to the number of passengers carried, however, the airline will qualify for the subsidies regardless of how many travellers it handles. The more departing passengers it welcomes on board its aircraft from Sarajevo, the greater the financial support, however, the exact amount of funds have not been made public.

Sarajevo Airport was made aware that Wizz Air could shut its base after it started suspending a number of routes from the city for the 2022/23 winter season back in August. It had previously described the opening of Wizz Air’s base as being of “strategic interest for Bosnia and Herzegovina”. The airline generated a significant portion of the airport’s traffic, while almost all of the carrier’s routes were unserved by others from the city, significantly improving its connectivity. Wizz Air’s departure has resulted in Sarajevo Airport losing all flights to Belgium, the Netherlands, France and Italy, as well as year-round operations to Sweden, Denmark and Norway.

Sarajevo Airport had previously noted it was in discussions with Ryanair over launching flights from the city. Ryanair has expanded its operations in Bosnia and Herzegovina this year. It entered the market in 2018 with services to Banja Luka from which it now serves eight cities. Furthermore, the carrier has launched operations to Tuzla earlier this month, with services from Vienna, Stockholm and Memmingen. Ryanair’s Director of Route Development, Ray Kelliher, recently said, “We look forward to growing in Bosnia and Herzegovina over the coming years and being able to announce more new and exciting routes for next summer”.

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