Air Serbia sole bidder for subsidized flights from Nis airport

BELGRADE (Reuters) - Serbia’s flagship airline Air Serbia was the sole bidder for subsidized flights to 12 international destinations from Konstantin Veliki airport in the southern city of Nis, the infrastructure ministry said on Tuesday.

In a statement, the ministry said Air Serbia, 49 percent owned by United Arab Emirates airline Etihad Airways, made the only valid offer, although other companies expressed interest.

The Serbian government holds the remainder of shares in Air Serbia.

“The signing of the contract with the representatives of Air Serbia will be organized in the coming days,” the statement said, without giving other details.

Last month, the government said it had allocated 600 million Serbian dinars ($5.7 million) to subsidize airline flying “in the public interest” from Serbia’s second biggest airport, around 220 kilometers south of Belgrade.

The flights set to last until 2023 will link Nis, Serbia’s second biggest city, twice a week with Nuremberg, Hannover, Friedrichshafen, Frankfurt and Karlsruhe in Germany, Gothenburg in Sweden, Bologna and Rome in Italy, Salzburg in Austria, Budapest in Hungary and Ljubljana in Slovenia.

The government will also subsidize flights from Nis to Montenegro’s Adriatic resort of Tivat three times a week during the summer season.

Ryanair, Swiss International Air Lines and Wizz Air fly to 10 destinations from government-operated Nis airport, which served 350,000 passengers last year.

Last year, Serbia agreed a deal for Europe’s biggest construction and concession firm Vinci to operate the airport in Belgrade for 25 years.

($1 = 105.3500 Serbian dinars)

Reporting by Aleksandar Vasovic; Editing by Mark Potter