Montenegrin flag carrier Montenegro Airlines has shut down operations and will cease to exist because of soaring debts.
Montenegro Airlines has been closed down by the national government of the small Balkan nation. According to international media, the airline has accumulated debts of around 150 million euro.
Reportedly, the debts even grew bigger in the last months of this year as the corona pandemic impacted flight operations and passenger numbers.
The Montenegrin flag carrier is the second Balkan airline to close down this year. Earlier this year, Slovenian national airline Adria Airways ceased operations after declaring bankruptcy.
Montenegro Airlines was founded in 1994 when Montenegro was still part of Yugoslavia. When Montenegro gained independence in 2006 when its citizens voted in favour of a split from neighbouring Serbia, a nation with which it shares deep linguistic and cultural ties, the airline served as the new flag carrier of Montenegro.
The airline had its main hub at Podgorica Airport and also operated flights out of Tivat Airport, just a few miles away on the coast.
Serving mostly to destination across the Balkans, Italy and some major European hubs, Montenegro Airlines mainly catered to business travellers, local citizens and holidaymakers visiting Montenegro’s stunning coastline.
The furthest destination which Montenegro Airlines served was Moscow, a logical route given the popularity of the mountainous country among Russian tourists.
Montenegro Airlines operated a curious fleet of Embraer 195s and Fokker 100s, on which it offered both a business class and economy class product.
As a last farewell, one of the pilots gave the airline a touching tribute by creating the shape of a heart while flying over Montenegro.
It is estimated that around 360 people are left without a job due to the closure of the airline.
— Boa🐨Janek (@tuttoAposto_) December 25, 2020
Local media reported that Montenegro’s Government has ordered the creation of a new, debt-free airline from scratch.
Minister Mladen Bojanic said it would cost 50 million euro to close down the flag carrier and to create a new one, which would take up to nine months.
This means that if the plan does indeed go ahead, the new airline will be formed too late for the summer tourist season of 2021.
Even though I have never flown with Montenegro Airlines myself, it is still always said to see a national airline go and people losing their job. The airline did not seem to be well-operated given the massive debts, although it seems like corona was just the final nail in the coffin.
Montenegro is a fantastic country to visit with some great people, and as an airline enthusiast I even had my eyes set multiple times on that fun yet quirky route between Moscow and Tivat which Montenegro Airlines operated, but never pulled the trigger to actually book it.
I hope that the country will manage to start up a new airline and employ some of the laid-off workers again, although given that there is nowadays a lot of competition by low-cost airlines (mainly Wizz Air) and charter airlines catering to the holiday crowds, I highly doubt they can be successful in these challenging times for global aviation.