Bosnia Rejects Proposal To Waive Sarajevo Airport’s Taxes

The Federal government of Bosnia and Herzegovina has rejected the proposal submitted by Irfan Čengić to allow Sarajevo International Airport to keep the money that it usually pays into the federal budget. The news comes as a blow for Sarajevo because the airport has been badly affected by COVID-19. In fact, its biggest airline and Bosnia’s flag carrier, FlyBosnia, does not even have any aircraft in its fleet anymore.

Bosnia Rejects Proposal To Waive Sarajevo Airport’s Taxes
FlyBosnia, the country’s flag carrier, at Sarajevo international Airport during happier times. Photo: FlyBosnia

Sarajevo International Airport suffers a federal blow

Dnevni avaz reports that the Parliament of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina has rejected a proposal submitted by Irfan Čengić, a social-democrat representative. The proposal did not receive enough votes.

The proposal was effectively an aid plan for Sarajevo International Airport, the airport serving the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Sarajevo Airport has suffered greatly as a result of COVID-19, with Bosnia and Herzegovina being placed on many countries’ red lists and most serving airlines making significant cuts in capacity on their routes.

Between January and August this year, Sarajevo Airport registered a loss of over four million euros (almost 5 million USD). To illustrate the impact of COVID-19 on the airport, one must only look at the departure board at Sarajevo International.

Sarajevo International Airport and UN forces
Sarajevo International Airport has not had such low passenger numbers as this year since the Bosnian War three decades ago. Photo: Getty Images

The airport barely has any flights at all

Today, there were just four scheduled commercial flights that departed Sarajevo International Airport:

  • Austrian Airlines, Embraer 195 to Vienna
  • Turkish Airlines, Airbus 321neo to Istanbul
  • Pegasus Airlines, Boeing 737 to Istanbul Sabiha Gökçen
  • flydubai, Boeing 737 to Dubai

For a capital city of a country that is not neighboring any large airports where citizens can go to, this is an incredibly small offering. Tomorrow there will even be one flight less, as Pegasus will not operate its flight PC292.

Kuwait Airways Flights Sarajevo
Had there not been a pandemic this year, Sarajevo would be serving many more airlines, including Kuwait Airways. Photo: Getty Images

Sarajevo needs an aid package

The proposal that the Bosnian federal parliament rejected earlier this week was supposed to be something of a lifeline for Sarajevo Airport, because of this major decrease in passenger numbers. For example, there is a ten euro tax per passenger for the traffic at the airport, which the proposal was effectively meant to eliminate.

Had the proposal been passed with a majority vote, Sarajevo International Airport would have been entitled to keep all of the money it pays to the Federal government.

Unlike most other airports that serve capital cities, Sarajevo does not have a national airline that it can rely on to boost passenger traffic even in the face of major cancellations. The flag carrier of Bosnia and Herzegovina, FlyBosnia, has been hit so severely by the pandemic and its resulting travel restrictions that it has actually retired its only aircraft.

In contrast, just a year ago, Sarajevo International Airport saw record passenger numbers, thanks to FlyBosnia basing two aircraft there.

How do you think airports like Sarajevo International Airport will survive if they are not given aid by their governments? Let us know what you think of this story in the comments below.