Air transport in Albania, the challenges, ambitions, and obstacles

Air transport in Albania, the challenges, ambitions, and obstacles
 
 Albanians are increasingly choosing the air to travel. The world mobility revolution has also affected our country, even at a rate four times faster than in other European countries. Over 3 million passengers have flown from Mother Teresa International Airport in 2019, making it one of the fastest-growing terminals.

Immigration, diaspora scattered across the globe, visa liberalization and large tourist attractions to the Albanian coast and natural beauties have helped boost the airline industry. In turn, this has helped the airport concessionaire realize a full 3.1 billion leks, or 25.6 million euros just in 2018.

But the other side of the coin speaks of thousands of Albanians flying as they fly from the region's airports. Adem Jashari Airport in Pristina, Skopje Airport and Podgorica Airport are some of the highlights that benefit from better interconnection and cheaper airline fares operating in them.

For other passengers flying from Rinas Airport, they are likely to pay more than their neighbors. This makes air transport still unaffordable for many families, conditioning meetings with family members abroad, or reducing the number of tourist visits.

Aviation background

Albania's isolation for decades during the dictatorship is one of the reasons that have prevented the development of aviation beyond its true potential. This is especially so if we consider that air transport for civilians has its origins since the 1920s. In the 1930s and 1940s gained even greater momentum, with a series of lines set up at destinations at home and abroad. Such were the flights from the capital to Vlora, Gjirokastra, Peshkopi, Kukes, Shkodra, Korça, Devoll and as far as Rome, Brindisi, Sofia, and Thessaloniki. Where prices ranged from 11 to 100 gold francs, comparable to ticket prices today.

Market liberalization

Today, Albania is seeking to expand its horizons in the sky, with plans to launch operations from Kukes and Vlora airports. The liberalization of this market has been made possible just after lengthy negotiations with Mother Teresa Airport Concessionaire, provided that for each new airport, the contract was further extended.

The plan for the two new airports aims to attract low-cost airlines through favorable tariffs. A competition that also seeks to influence Rinas price reductions.

Above all, Vlora Airport seeks to create one more reason for foreign tourists to visit the south of the country. The baseline scenario predicts 370,000 passengers in the first year of operation, to reach 1 million in 2036.

On the other hand, at Kukes Airport, despite government promises, the operation has not yet begun. Work has been postponed due to expropriation problems and there is no date for the start of flights. This consequently drives up the expected effect of generating new jobs and developing the area's economy.

Air Albania

2019 saw the birth of Air Albania, the flagship line, but not the first to color the skies "in red". Since 1991, Arberia Airlines started as a private line for the politicians of the communist regime, turning a year later to Albania Airlines to open its doors to the public. The airline, in cooperation with the Austrian Tyrolean Airlines, was privatized in 1997 and on November 11, 2011, the license has been revoked by the Civil Aviation Authority.

Another Albanian airline was Belle Air, set up in 2005 and pushed to closing on November 24, 2013 due to financial difficulties. Since 2016, another Albanian flag carrier, Albawings, has been operating in the market, flying to Italy, Germany, Slovakia and the United Kingdom.

Air transport in Albania, the challenges, ambitions, and obstacles

But with the establishment of Air Albania, in partnership with Turkish Airlines, the government, which owns 10% of the shares, aims above all to create price competition.

Migjeni and Lasgushi, two Air Albania fleets, currently operate Istanbul and Milan, Bologna and Rome. Currently, this line holds 10% of the market share, mainly thanks to the replacement of Turkish Airlines in flights.

Destinations

In recent years, Albanian destinations have spread all over Europe, but Italy holds first place. This has helped lines like Blue Panorama, Ernest Airlines, Albawings, Alitalia, and most recently Air Albania dominate the market.

Recent innovations are low-cost flights and holiday destinations throughout the year, compounded by the rise of the country's middle and upper class. While during the Summer, air transportation is characterized by charter trips, in other words, the special flights of tourists coming from countries such as Norway, Sweden, Ukraine, and Israel, but also the holiday destinations of Albanians in Antalya, Sharm el-sheik and beyond.

But despite the light competition in this market, the number of trips remains low. Even 5 to 7 times lower than in developed countries. Something that besides the situation, shows also the great prospect of growing up and traveling more easily for holidays, family visits or even business.
Air transport in Albania, the challenges, ambitions, and obstacles Air transport in Albania, the challenges, ambitions, and obstacles Saturday, January 04, 2020 Rating: 5
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