History of Commercial Airline services in Bosnia
Air passenger traffic in the former Yugoslavia began before World War II. As early as 1930, there was a small passenger plane air service serving Belgrade – Sarajevo – Podgorica using a military airfield in Rajlovac, Sarajevo. Civil flights were taken by civilian traffic travelling from the Belgrade Aeronautical Society Aeroput with the aircraft Potez – (The Move 29) of French production. During World War II air transport was used for the delivery of war supplies.
After the war ended in 1947, scheduled air traffic was re-established by introducing air service to Sarajevo from Belgrade and Zagreb. The newly formed Yugoslav-Soviet airline called “JUSTA” used the airport in Butmir, Sarajevo. JAT (Yugoslav Air Transport) has served with DC-3 Dakota, which were plentiful after the war. With 24 passenger seats, this air transport service continued for the next 22 years.
The construction of Sarajevo’s International Airport in Butmir began in late 1965 and lasted three years. Construction required building of the entire infrastructure including runways, taxiways, platforms, terminals and administrative building. The control tower was also part of the airport building. In 1984 when the Olympic Winter Games were held in Sarajevo, the airport was modernized after which Sarajevo Airport ranked among the best-equipped airports in this part of Europe.
At the time that the conflict in Bosnia was brewing the BIH air traffic was increasing. This was due in part to the special contribution of the local charter airline, Air Commerce whom in the period from October 1991 to March 1992, transported more than 40,000 passengers alone.
Sometime before the Bosnian war, the Airport United Nations Protection Force (UNPROFOR) troops were stationed at the airport when it was opened for direct delivery of humanitarian aid during the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
After the siege of Sarajevo ended in 1995 part of the Airport was managed by the civil authorities of Bosnia and Herzegovina. From that moment began the struggle to restore the Sarajevo Airport rightful functions – Civil air traffic. At first the airport received many donations, such as used equipment, after which followed reconstruction of the terminals and reorganization. After a short training in Turkey, employees of the airport took their long-awaited jobs and slowly moved forward. Immediately after the opening of the airport, Croatia Airlines set up a connection between Sarajevo and Zagreb. A Turkish company, Top Air, established connections between Sarajevo and Istanbul.
Four Interesting Cities to Visit and their Airports
Air travel is probably the fastest and more comfortable means of getting around. There are four main airports in the cities in Bosnia and Herzegovina, that link with many cities around Europe. Click on the links below to find out about these cities and their airlines.
Air Bosnia – The History of the BH Airlines
Air Bosnia, the national air carrier of Bosnia and Herzegovina, was established in 1994 in Sarajevo. The airline, which was created in the middle of the war later became known as the B&H Airlines. According to old timetable records in the fleet there was an aircraft Yakovlev YAK-42. Aircrafts YAK-42 had been rented out by various airlines from Russia and the Ukraine. Aircrafts generally had the inscription Air Bosnia and were painted in the colors of the Bosnian carrier.
The flight schedule of Air Bosna from Sarajevo was as follows:-
- To Zagreb:- three flights a week
- To Istanbul:- two flights a week
- To Berlin (Schönefeld ZL), Dusseldorf, Gothenburg, Ljubljana, Munich, Stuttgart, Trieste and Vienna:- one flight a week via Zagreb.
Air Bosna was formed as a state public corporation in 1994 by decree with force of law according to which the stake of the Government of Republic B&H was 51 % and the stake of the other co-founder, Energoinvest, was 49 %. Government Republic B&H was to invest $ 300,000, but according to Kulić, ”Air Bosna never received a penny”. He points out that, ”some money” with which they began works was received at the end of 1996 by former Prime Minister Hasan Muratović. The first flight of the company was on the line Sarajevo-Istanbul on 16 August 1996. The last flight of the company was on the line Gothenburg – Copenhagen – Sarajevo on 12 September 2003.
Just before it shut down, Air Bosnia had about 90 employees and hired two Ukrainian planes ” JAK 42″ which had a mixed Ukrainian-Bosnian crew. Although the Air Bosnia expected to sign a contract with Airbus on the purchase of the plane “Airbus 319” with 120 seats, costing 80 million German marks, or negotiating with the company Boeing, the purchase did not happen. There were also promises from the Federal Government (which is the legal successor of the founder of Air Bosna) that they would help with 15 % of the funds for the purchase of aircraft, whilst the other 85 % would be provided through the credit line, but the purchase was not realized. Although optimistic when speaking of the purchase of aircraft, one can feel the dissatisfaction in the words of the director of Air Bosnia because he believes that the state airline is not sufficiently protected, more precisely, “it is placed in an unequal position’’ in relation to other foreign companies. On the other hand, representatives of competing companies, in particular BIO Air, think that Kulic wants a monopoly of the Bosnian sky, and that he is attempting to take exclusive rights “over all work made by Bosniaks, and that he has no courage to go against Serbs and Croats.”
Bosnia and Herzegovina today is almost the only country in Europe without a national airline. Even though in other former Yugoslav countries there are such companies, with more or less success, the two airlines established after the war – Air Bosna in the Federation and the Air Srpska in the Republicof Srpska -they have both experienced financial bankruptcy after a few years. In October 2003 Air Srpska stopped flying, and soon after, Air Bosnia also stopped operating due to financial difficulties.
Neither Air Bosnia, nor the Federal Ministry of Transport want to talk about whether or not the company will fly again, although it was announced that Air Bosnia would soon buy two aircrafts, ATR-42’s. The estimates of financial experts are, however, that a recovery of the company is not likely to happen bearing in mind that the company is in 20 million marks of debt. AirSrpska and Air Bosnia still have a director but not a single plane, nor any flights.
Does Bosnia and Herzegovina deserve this? I believe not.
There’s a gratuitous photo of an Airbus A350, at a terminal.