Macedonia plans launch of new carrier in late 2015

MAT Macedonian Airlines (IN, Skopje) will be succeeded by a new national carrier during the second half of next year EX-YU Aviation News reports. The Macedonian government recently issued a tender for potential advisers in the project which it hopes will see strong foreign participation.

The tender runs until December 29, after which the government, in collaboration with TAV Airports Macedonia, will select a winner.

Turkish Airlines (TK, Istanbul Atatürk) has long been touted as the strongest contender for the role of foreign partner in the establishment of a national carrier. TAV sees a strong aviation sector as vital to the development of the country's economy which is highly dependent on tourism.

However, regional tempers have flared over Skopje's policy of offering financial incentives to carriers such as Wizz Air (W6, Budapest) to secure their services. The former Serb province turned independent state of Kosovo last week dragged Macedonia to the European Commission (EC) claiming the incentives violate a Common Aviation Area Agreement (CAAA), signed between the former Yugoslav states and the EC, in that they will distort competition in the region.

The Macedonian government launched a three-year subsidy scheme in 2012 with this year's annual payments said to amount to EUR4.9million. Under the scheme, carriers are given a one-off EUR40'000 cash injection for each new route launched for the first six destinations. Each subsequent route launch receives an additional EUR30'000 subsidy from the government with carriers rewarded for the number of passenger they carry.

The Macedonian Ministry for Transport and Communication has denied Kosovo's claims stating the incentives are in line with the terms of the CAAA and that it had informed the Kosovar government of its intentions well ahead of time.

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