Belgium’s national carrier Brussels Airlines is considering launching flights between its hub and Bosnia and Herzegovina’s two largest cities. Herman Carpentier, the Vice President for Aeropolitical, Government & International Relations at Brussels Airlines, said the carrier is eying a potential Brussels – Sarajevo – Banja Luka service.
The airline has requested for additional information and data from both airports before making a final decision, with Mr Carpentier noting that Bosnia and Herzegovina’s ongoing process to join the European Union will further boost demand for flights between the two countries. There is currently no service between the Bosnian capital and Brussels, with TUIfly Belgium to launch seasonal flights from Charleroi, which is some fifty kilometres from Brussels, to Sarajevo on March 31.
Brussels Airlines has a limited presence in the former Yugoslavia, with flights to Zagreb introduced in 2015. Last year, Andreas Weingartner, the carrier’s General Manager for Central Europe, Balkans, Russia and Offline Europe, said, “The Balkan market is still relatively untapped and is new for us, but it certainly has growth potential. Initially, we always introduce flights to countries which are already members of the European Union. Zagreb has recently been added. On our flights from Vienna, we have many transfer passengers from the Balkans”. In December 2016, the Lufthansa Group took a 100% stake in Brussels Airlines, in a deal to fully integrate the Belgian carrier into Lufthansa’s Eurowings Group in 2018.
Meanwhile, another Lufthansa Group member, Austrian Airlines, has ruled out the possibility of launching services to Banja Luka. The carrier previously served the city during the 1990s. Despite talks with the airport in 2014 over potential flights, Stefanie Zugmann, Austrian’s Manager for International & Aeropolitical Affairs, noted that the airline has made a list of priority markets and destinations for the future, with Banja Luka not included in the upper third. “We have to look at the potential of the market. Furthermore, we would need additional data from local sales agents. The size of the catchment area is important but is not the only indicator for the route’s potential. We would also be very thankful for any sort of legal incentives we could be offered from the competent authorities”, Ms Zugmann said, adding that every new route carries with it a financial risk. Banja Luka Airport has struggled to attract customers over the past few years and is currently served only by Air Serbia, which maintains three weekly flights from Belgrade.
Copyright EX-YU Aviation: http://www.exyuaviation.com/2017/01/brussels-airlines-considering-sarajevo.html