FlyBosnia Launches Flights To Rome Amid Business Model Issues

FlyBosnia is launching a new route from its base in Sarajevo to Rome Fiumicino. But the flag carrier of Bosnia and Herzegovina is already facing some existential challenges in its first year of operations. In the context of so many airlines going bankrupt this year, will FlyBosnia’s troubles prove fatal?

FlyBosnia A319
One of FlyBosnia’s two A319 aircraft (E7-FBA). Photo: Smooth O via Wikimedia

New flights to Rome

Flights between Sarajevo International Airport and Rome Fiumicino will run under FlyBosnia codes 6W107 and 6W108. Flights begin on Monday 4 November. Tickets are already on sale. These will be operated by FlyBosnia’s Airbus A319 aircraft. The Bosnian airline presently has two, but they are both severely under-utilized.

Flights will depart Sarajevo on Mondays at 8.00 am and land in Rome at 9.15 am, departing Rome at 10.15 am and arriving in Sarajevo at 11.30 am. On Thursdays, flights will depart Sarajevo at 5.20 pm and land in Rome at 6.35 pm before departing Rome again at 7.35 pm to arrive in Sarajevo at 8.50 pm.

E7-FBA features a special livery. Photo: FlyBosnia

This will be only the second route that FlyBosnia operates this winter, despite the airline having two aircraft. This brings us to the problems at the carrier.

Serious surplus of capacity

FlyBosnia has two Airbus A319 aircraft, with plans to acquire more. But it is only operating two routes this winter – Rome Fiumicino and London Luton. This is a serious red flag for a company in the aviation industry, and it poses a serious existential problem for the airline.

With such a small source of revenue, will FlyBosnia be yet another European airline heading for bankruptcy? We previously wrote how every single attempt by Bosnia and Herzegovina to establish a national airline has resulted in bankruptcy.

Debts lead to bankruptcy

If the bankruptcy of neighboring flag carrier Adria Airways or the UK giant Thomas Cook is anything to go by, growing debts are a major issue for airlines. FlyBosnia has accumulated such high debts in its first few months of operations that bankruptcy is no longer unlikely.

According to local media Dnevni Avaz, the debt to Sarajevo International Airport totals more than one million Bosnian Convertible Marks. This is over $600,000. And this is to its home airport, the base from where it hopes to expand. It is also the airport of the capital that it wants to be a flag carrier for.

Dnevni Avaz calls these developments a “scandal”. Officials from Sarajevo International Airport have confirmed the debt, and clarified that more than half of it is for “aviation services”. Some 10 percent of the debt is unpaid catering bills.

This level of debt was accrued in less than half a year of operations.

Tuzla Airport
Tuzla International Airport, where FlyBosnia may soon be moving. Photo: NeXtro via Wikimedia

Base closure already?

In an interview with Klix, FlyBosnia suggested that Sarajevo International Airport may be too expensive for the airline. Furthermore, Klix reports that FlyBosnia is considering moving to either Tuzla International Airport or Mostar International Airport.

Both of these airports are not far away from Sarajevo, reflecting the relatively small size of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Both airports are served by airlines that are receiving significant subsidies to operate there.

Do you think FlyBosnia has developed a sustainable business model? Let us know in the comments below.