Airports Infrastructure

Airports Infrastructure

Bulgaria has four operating commercial airports – in Sofia, Plovdiv, Burgas and Varna. They handle both international and domestic flights. A tender for a 35-year concession for the management of Burgas and Varna airports was held in June 2006 and the government awarded the concession to a consortium between Fraport AG, Germany and a local company, named BM Star.

Furthermore, in response to the demand for cargo transport, the government has added the airports in Plovdiv (south-central Bulgaria), Gorna Oryahovitsa (north-central Bulgaria) and Ruse (northern Bulgaria) to the list of airports which accept international air traffic. In relation to the Plovdiv airport, the government is in the process of identifying concessioners for both the passengers and the cargo terminals of the airport. The newly formed government announced in January 2015 that it planned to launch a concession call for Sofia and Gorna Oryahovitsa airports. The purpose of the concession of Sofia airport is to further extend the cargo and passenger handling capacity of the airport and modernize its infrastructure.

Sofia airport, which handled more than 3.8 million passengers in 2014 (8.9% up from the 2013 level), has undergone significant investments in the last few years, including a new traffic control tower, thus increasing its capacity and providing modern facilities to respond to the growing demand for international air travel. The newly constructed terminal ensures a higher standard of passenger handling and landing of wide-bodied aircraft.

The World Bank is helping to transform Croatia’s two largest international seaports in Rijeka and Ploce into gateways to Central and East Europe. The projects in Rijeka and Ploce are introducing long-term concessions by private investors and developing additional physical capacity in the ports, integrating them into existing and new transport corridors.

It may be appropriate to look first at an airport that has been privatised for 10 years as of Apr-2015 and which can be considered a success story, somewhat against the odds. In Albania, Tirana’s Rinas Airport was taken on a 20-year BOOT concession by a consortium led by Hochtief Airports (now AviAlliance), which holds 47% of the equity. Other shareholders are DEG Deutsche Investitions- und Entwicklungsgesellschaft (31.7%) and AAEF Albanian-American Enterprise Fund (21.3%).

The airport company has the title Tirana International Airport SHPK (TIA) and it set itself the goal of steadily optimising operations at the new airport and making it into one of Albania’s most up-to-date infrastructure facilities. A new passenger terminal was constructed and inaugurated in 2007.

In Apr-2015 Romania approved a calendar of bourse listings for 2015 and 2016, with the government, as part of the process, aiming to list a small stake in National Company Bucharest Airports. Separately, the Prime Minister has held talks with Qatar Airways regarding the future of both TAROM and Bucharest Otopeni Airport and will talk to other airlines as well. The intent is primarily to save TAROM but the airport, which is growing quickly (see chart) could become involved in an agreement.

Otopeni is another airport with a balanced traffic mix between full service and budget carriers.

Bucharest’s other airport, Baneasa, which handled low cost traffic in the mid-200s, was converted into a private business jet airport in 2012 and only handled 6000 passengers in 2014.

As in Romania there are mixed messages coming out of Serbia. Belgrade International Airport plans to invest EUR20 million in the next two years to expand in order to make Belgrade an international hub, with the Government hoping to attract bids to operate the airport under concession, and with Vinci already expressing interest.

The number of passengers using the airport is expected to reach five million in 2015, nearing its current capacity of 5.5 million. Passenger growth was almost 31% in 2014.

At the same time the Government has failed to meet several key deadlines it set relating to the future of Belgrade Airport and behind the scenes it has been planning to create a state-run operator to manage up to 25 of the country’s airports. The establishment of the new state-owned operator is still being considering and is awaiting the approval of other ministries and government agencies involved in its creation.