VFR Passengers Key To Kosovo Beating Pre-Pandemic Traffic By 22%

The aviation sector in Kosovo has recorded another impressive passenger figure: Pristina Airport (PRN) handled 340.446 passengers in July 2021, which exceeds the July 2019 figure by as much as 22%. Let’s take a look at the details.

SWISS A220-100
Switzerland is traditionally a very busy outbound market for Pristina. Photo: Getty Images

Pristina Airport overtakes 2019 by a major margin

The aviation sector in Kosovo is a record-breaker not only in the context of the global recovery from COVID-19 but also when compared to its own past performance. This puts aviation in Kosovo ahead of almost the entire world.

In July 2019, the pre-pandemic record month for passenger traffic, Pristina International Airport (PRN) handled just over 280,013 passengers. In July 2021, Pristina handled as many as 340,446 passengers, Kosovo’s media outlet KOHA reports.

This means that Kosovo saw an increase in passenger traffic of 21.6%, which is an unprecedented achievement when comparing 2019 to 2021. Disregarding the pre-pandemic 2019, and comparing July 2020 to July 2021, the figure is spectacular, with an increase in passenger traffic of 284%.

Edelweiss Airbus A340
Edelweiss Air even sends A340s to Pristina from Zurich. Photo: Getty Images

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Why such major growth?

The primary reason that Pristina Airport outperformed its pre-pandemic operations by such a large double-digit margin is that the Kosovo aviation market relies heavily on VFR (visiting friends and relatives) traffic.

After more than a year of travel restrictions and a highly limited ability for the Kosovar diaspora to travel home and for their families in Kosovo to come to visit them, things have become a lot easier in July 2021.

The Council of the European Union recommended to its member states that they should lift travel restrictions on travelers from Kosovo starting 1st July. Switzerland opened up even earlier.

Looking at the arrivals board in Pristina Airport, it is clear that VFR traffic is a major contributor to Kosovo’s aviation boom: most destinations on offer are from European regions that have large Kosovar diasporas, with Turkey also featuring heavily.

Eurowings A319
Pristina was one of Eurowings’ first bases outside of the German-speaking countries. Photo: Getty Images

Where are the passengers coming from and going to?

A snapshot of the departure board from today, Monday 9th August 2021, reveals some clear patterns at this airport.

Between 09:00 and 10:00, there were five departures at Pristina, and every single one was destined for Switzerland:

  • ETF Airways, a startup airline from Croatia, flew to Basel-Mulhouse-Freiburg (BSL)
  • Enter Air, another charter airline, also flew to Basel (BSL)
  • easyJet flew to Geneva (GVA)
  • Edelweiss Air flew to Zurich (ZRH), operated by a SWISS Airbus A321
  • SWISS flew to Geneva (GVA) with its own metal

Such is the demand between Kosovo and Switzerland that Edelweiss Air regularly sends its widebody Airbus A340 aircraft from Zurich to Pristina.

The departure board is not much different for the rest of the day, with Pristina’s destinations for the 24 hours from 10:00 onward being as follows:

  • Eurowings to Munich, Stuttgart, Malmo, and Frankfurt
  • SWISS, Helvetic, and Edelweiss operating each other’s flights to Zurich multiple times
  • easyJet to Berlin, Geneva, and Basel-Mulhouse-Freiburg
  • Chair Airlines to Zurich every few hours
  • Charter airplanes by ETF Airways, Trade Air, Enter Air, and GP Aviation to Dusseldorf, Dortmund, Basel, Malmo, Stuttgart, Helsinki, and Copenhagen (most destinations multiple times)
  • Wizz Air to Dortmund, Vienna, Memmingen, and Karlsruhe
  • Turkish Airlines and SunExpress to Istanbul and Antalya, multiple times
  • Pegasus Airlines to Istanbul
  • TUIfly to Brussels
  • Austrian Airlines to Vienna, multiple times

Thus, there are 16 airlines flying to Pristina over the next 24 hours, almost exclusively to the major Kosovar diaspora locations: Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Belgium, and the Scandinavian countries.

What do you think of Pristina’s results? Let us know in the comments below.