FlyBosnia Pushes Sarajevo Airport To Passenger Number Record

Sarajevo International Airport has registered its busiest year ever, since it had its first passenger service in 1930. The airport that serves the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina handled over 1.1 million passengers in 2019, which is almost 10% more than it did in 2018. Growth was achieved thanks to the startup FlyBosnia, which opened a base there this year.

Sarajevo International Airport and UN forces
Sarajevo Airport took a very long time to recover from the Bosnian War, when the airport had no scheduled flights as the UN forces held a base there. Photo: Getty Images

Sarajevo Airport

Sarajevo International Airport serves the city of Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina. This is the airport from which the biggest ever UN humanitarian operation took place during the 1990s, with a delivery of 160,000 tons of aid.

During the Bosnian War, the airport had no scheduled flights. It took almost a decade after the war ended for passenger numbers to return to their pre-war levels. Only recently have passenger figures surpassed their levels from 1984, when Sarajevo was home to the Winter Olympics.

As the airport itself outlines, there were five national carriers in operation in Bosnia and Herzegovina over the last 30 years. These include Air Commerce, Air Bosna, B&H Airlines, Bosnian Wand Airlines and Arnoro. They all went bankrupt.

This year, FlyBosnia, which was our startup airline of the week, opened a base there and launched flights to Kuwait, London and Rome, among other destinations. This caused a boom in Sarajevo Airport’s passenger figures.

FlyBosnia has opened a base in Sarajevo and is contributing to passenger growth. Photo: FlyBosnia

The airport figures

Sarajevo International Airport’s own figures reveal that it handled 1,143,680 passengers this year. This is an increase of almost 10% compared to 2018, and the busiest year on record.

Another first for Sarajevo is that the airport served over 100,000 passengers for four consecutive months in a row. The one millionth passenger passed through Sarajevo’s doors at the end of October, which is a whole month earlier than last year.

June recorded 28% passenger growth, while in July the growth was 14%.

The number of aircraft movements was 13,671, which is 1.8% higher than in 2018. This means that the load factor for the airlines serving the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina has improved, on average.

FlyBosnia Pushes Sarajevo Airport To Passenger Number Record
FlyBosnia kitted out for the European Youth Olympics Festival. Photo: FlyBosnia

How has FlyBosnia contributed?

The months that recorded the highest growth of passenger numbers in 2019 were June, July and August. This was the time period during which FlyBosnia operated most of its flights out of Sarajevo.

These flights were almost exclusively destined for the Middle East. Simple Flying predicted at the time that FlyBosnia’s niche market of religious tourism is likely to be a success, as the airline began launching flights not to Europe but to the Middle East.

The airline strategically caters for Arab Muslims who are looking to escape those hot Middle Eastern summer months, and spend them in a Muslim country – which Bosnia is.

Still, the sustainability of this growth is uncertain. FlyBosnia is facing some challenging business model issues and its rising debts have prompted the airline to return half of its Airbus fleet and fire 50% of staff.