Montenegro shuts struggling national carrier

Montenegro shuts struggling national carrier

Burdened with mounting debts that have left Montenegro dependent on state subsidies, the country’s government is shutting down its national carrier. “We cannot take any decision that would be legal … to prolong the life of Montenegro Airlines,” minister of investment Mladen Bojanic said at a press conference.

Procedures to shut down the company, which employs around 360 people, would cost around EUR 50 million (USD 61 million) and should begin as soon as possible, he added. Bojanic also said that the tiny Balkan country of around 600,000 people would aim to get a new carrier off the ground in six to nine months.

Montenegro Airlines’ fleet consisted of four leased planes — three Embraer 195s and a Fokker F100. The company registered nearly 660,000 passengers last year, the highest figure since it was established in 1994, according to official data.

Serving around 30 destinations worldwide, especially during the summer season, it boasted annual revenues of 70-80 million euros but still had to take on debt to keep flying. That left the company vulnerable when the coronavirus pandemic wiped out air traffic this year. In January-September, the carrier’s revenues fell 80% compared with 2019.

A EUR 155-million rescue plan decided in December last year had to be dropped after Irish no-frills carrier Ryanair complained to the European Commission.

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