EX-YU travel market slow to recover

Austria is one of the largest markets for air travel from the countries of the former Yugoslavia due to large diasporas and transfer traffic via Vienna, however, passenger numbers have mostly put time to recover from the coronavirus pandemic. Austrian Airlines dominates the route to the region and increased its services during the second quarter of the year with the carrier operating from Vienna to Pristina, Belgrade, Skopje, Podgorica, Sarajevo, Zagreb, Dubrovnik, Split and Zadar this summer. Tighter entry requirements into Austria during the first quarter have delayed the recovery in most markets, with pre-pandemic figures yet to be reached on services from Vienna to Belgrade, Sarajevo , Podgorica and Zagreb.

In 2021, Vienna – Pristina was the busiest city pair in the region, overtaking Vienna – Belgrade which dominated before the pandemic. Last year, 134,870 passengers flew between the Austrian capital and Pristina, while in the first quarter of 2022 an additional 32,802 travelers made the trip by air. Unlike the majority of other markets in the former Yugoslavia, figures for the first three months of this year exceeded pre-pandemic levels. Austrian and Wizz Air maintain operations between the two cities. Austrian Airlines has increased its frequencies from Vienna to Pristina from two daily flights to seventeen weekly flights this summer, marking the highest number of flights the Austrian carrier has ever maintained from Pristina.

Passenger performance on flights from Vienna to EX-YU capitals, 2021

Austrian Airlines competes with Air Serbia on flights between Vienna and Belgrade, with the Serbian carrier also operating short-haul services between Kraljevo and the Austrian capital; in 2021, while low-cost airline Ryanair maintains operations from Niš to Vienna. Last week, Air Serbia launched year-round flights from Belgrade to Salzburg, its second destination in Austria. “We are very pleased that by introducing services to Salzburg, we are helping to strengthen the air link between Serbia and Austria, an extremely important market for our country due to its large Serbian diaspora. We are sure that Salzburg, as an important tourist destination due to its proximity to the Alps and ski resorts, will be an attractive option for planning vacations for our passengers,” Air Serbia said. During the first quarter of this year, 26,243 passengers flew between Belgrade and Vienna, which is still down 40% compared to the same period in 2019.

On the other hand, Austrian Airlines and low-cost carriers notably skipped the chance to start services between Vienna and Ljubljana, despite passenger figures indicating solid demand. Flights to the Austrian capital were one of Adria Airways’ most successful routes before its demise, with double daily flights maintained during the summer months and an average of around 60,000 passengers per year. In late 2019, Ljubljana Airport expressed hope that Austrian would begin operations from Vienna in the summer of 2020, which never materialized. Austrian Airlines had previously maintained its own flights to Ljubljana, suspending daily service at the end of the 2005 summer season. Adria Airways subsequently increased operations to the Austrian capital, maintaining four daily rotations until the global financial crisis of 2009 .