During the week Pirstina’s busiest airline, the Italian registered Belle Air Europe, ceased operations, a move which is expected to have short term effects on Pristina Airport. On Thursday, the Italian Civil Aviation Authority suspended Belle Air Europe’s operating license. Affected passengers are now seeking compensation which the defunct airline has an obligation to provide, though it has been difficult getting in contact with the airline. Belle Air Europe operated flights out of Pristina to Basel, Brussels, Dusseldorf, Malmo, Milan, Stuttgart, Venice and Verona. In addition, it often ran services on behalf of other airlines, making it the busiest at the airport.
Adria Airways and Wizz Air were quick to respond to Belle Air Europe’s demise. Adria operated up to five flights between Pristina and Ljubljana the day following Belle Air Europe’s suspension announcement. Wizz Air launched a dedicated webpage to those affected by the bankruptcy, offering low “rescue” fares for travel from its Skopje base. However, no airline has committed to taking over any of Belle Air Europe’s routes. On the other hand, in Albania, where parent company Belle Air also filed for bankruptcy, Italian low cost airline Blue Panorama immediately took over seven of Belle Air’s routes. Adria is in the best position to profit from the bankruptcy since it has a Bombardier CRJ900 based in Pristina, as well as local staff. In addition, Adria is a EU registered airline, allowing it to operate flights out of Pristina to EU markets.
In 2012 Pristina Airport was the third busiest airport in the former Yugoslavia, handling 1.527.13 passengers. Of that, Belle Air Europe accounted for 210.787. In the first three quarters of 2013, Belle Air Europe carried 175.535 passengers to and from Pristina. The airport has seen significant passenger growth so far this year, however, the rate of increase in the last few months has considerably slowed. Split Airport is currently ahead of Pristina, handling 1.524.192 passengers compared to the latter’s 1.440.632 during the first ten months of the year. After a strong 2013, Split is vying to overtake the title as the former Yugoslavia’s third busiest airport this year. However, in order to so, it must continue to see growth during the slow winter months while the effects of Belle Air Europe’s demise in Pristina remain to be seen. Pristina Airport will continue to be served by fourteen scheduled airlines this winter.