Montenegro Airlines has seen its passenger numbers improve during the first four months of the year, positioning itself as the fourth busiest carrier in the former Yugoslavia. The Montenegrin airline welcomed 119.713 passengers on board its aircraft, some 8.020 travellers more than the same period last year, or an increase of 7.2%. Fuelling the growth were charter flights, as well as new services to Lyon, Dusseldorf and St. Petersburg. During the first quarter, the airline posted strong figures on flights to its main market – Serbia. It handled 48.730 travellers on services from Podgorica, Tivat and Belgrade, an increase of 16% compared to last year. At the same time, the carrier has also increased the number of operated flights to the Serbian capital by 19%.
The airline saw its passenger numbers more than double on charter flights, with an increase of 54.3%. Montenegro Airlines also noted that passenger numbers on its codeshare services improved 4.5%. The Montenegrin carrier has codeshare agreements with Air France, Adria Airways, Alitalia, Austrian and S7 Airlines. It foresees further passenger growth in the coming months. “Montenegro Airlines has been encouraged by these results which represent an excellent start to 2015. This success comes as a result of charter flights, where out of the planned seventy services for this season, we have already carried out twenty”. The carrier adds, “Further assisting these results was the launch of new services to Lyon, St. Petersburg and Dusseldorf. By the end of June, the national carrier will launch new charter flights to Baku, while flights to Yerevan will operate once per week between July and August”.
The encouraging trends come as the Montenegrin government prepares to sell its national carrier this year. In a few weeks, the airline is expected to sign a strategic partnership agreement with Etihad Airways, which will see the two airlines codeshare on each other’s routes and provide Montenegro Airlines with access to various services used by Etihad Airways at airports across Europe. Last year, the Montenegrin carrier handled 557.000 passengers, a decrease of 5% on the year before. Furthermore, its losses amounted to 9.5 million euros. The airline has been leasing out one of its Embraer jets, as well as crew, in an attempt to generate additional income. The carrier recently began settling part of its 68 million euro debt and has agreed to repay debt owed to the operator of the country’s two international airports – Podgorica and Tivat – amounting to 6.423.390 euros. The debt repayment will start on March 1, 2017 and will be payed off in installments over 108 months.