BH airlines, the newly resurrected FBiH carrier, hopes to carve a niche in the regional market by offering low prices and high quality passenger service.
By Antonio Prlenda for Southeast European Times in Sarajevo – 13/02/06
BH Airlines sports its new logo and a large Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) flag on its brand-new planes. [Antonio Prlenda]
Seven months after the official relaunch of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina's (FBiH) major airline, company data show that the airline has successfully managed to return to service.
Previously called Air Bosnia, the company was founded after the war by the FBiH government and the Sarajevo-based Energoinvest Company, which provided its sole business jet and its hangar at the Sarajevo International Airport. Pressed by a 7m-euro debt, it went bankrupt and suspended all flights starting in September 2003. The company now sports the BH Airlines logo and a large Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) flag on its brand-new planes. Chief Manager Nudzeim Recica is optimistic about the future.
"With 27,000 passengers transported and 3.25m euros earned since July 2005, we managed to achieve positive financial business," he said. "The process of re-registration of the company is not fully over yet. That is why, officially, we still have the old name within our full title -- Air Bosnia-BH Airlines."
The leasing of the two ATR 72-210 commuter planes in the summer of 2005 was the key step in the company's resurrection. Seven BH Airlines crews -- 15 pilots and six technicians -- have completed training at the headquarters of the European multinational manufacturer ATR in Toulouse, France.
The propeller-driven ATR 72-210 boasts excellent hot-and-high and short field capabilities. The ATR 72 is able to carry up to 72 passengers at operating costs comparable to those typical of 50-seaters. Thanks to its low costs and high reliability, ATR aircraft have played a major role in the development of many airlines. The hopes for the BH Airlines are the same.
"Our favourite route is Sarajevo-Istanbul-Sarajevo, which we fly every day other than Saturday," said Recica. "Our other busy flights are to Zurich, Stuttgart, Cologne and Izmir. We also regularly have connecting flights with local BiH airports at Mostar and Banja Luka. In the summer, we organised charter flights to different destinations in Turkey, Greece and Tunisia, in co-operation with tourist agencies of BiH."
According to Recica, the load factor of passengers is between 50 per cent and 60 per cent and he believes it can be improved. The airline hopes to carve a niche in the regional market by offering low prices and high quality passenger service.
"Our flight to Istanbul is definitely the cheapest -- 139 euros plus taxes," he said. "The 45-euro flights to Zagreb, on a code share basis with Croatia Airlines, also offer the lowest prices to other European destinations."
Recica expects a similar arrangement to be established with Turkish Airlines, for destinations in Australia, China and Middle East. BH Airlines also plans to obtain a medium range jet in the near future for flights to Scandinavia. The destination is of great interest because of the large population of BiH refugees living there.
"The number of our foreign passengers is rising, too. For the first time we have serious support from the FBiH government. The fact is that local officials are much more aware that BiH has to have its own national airline," concludes Recica.