Skopje traffic doubles in five years; LCCs dominate capacity
In February 2018 ‘Alexander the Great’ was dropped from Skopje International Airport’s name in a bid to improve relations with neighbouring Greece, creating headlines globally. A few months before, Aegean Airlines announced future flights between Athens and Skopje, the first flights to Greece for several years, and a huge milestone despite the ongoing tensions of the naming dispute for both countries. This was one of many successes for the airport in recent years, with strong passenger growth and new airlines setting up operations.
Skopje’s growth continues; passenger numbers double in five years
2014 marked the highest growth in passenger numbers with the airport facing an increase of a near 23% compared to the 19% on the previous year. The airport has achieved double-digit passenger growth every year since 2012, with passenger numbers passing two million for the first time in 2018; double the numbers served in 2013.
Wizz Air is #1 carrier
Following the failure of North Macedonia’s flag carrier MAT Macedonian Airlines in September 2009, a significant opportunity arose in the defunct flag carrier’s previous stronghold, with Hungarian LCC Wizz Air quickly replacing the lost capacity. The airline established a base in Skopje as part of an $80 million investment, and from S19 is expecting four additional routes. According to anna.aero’s new route database, the airline will introduce a twice-weekly service to all of its new destinations which include Bremen, Baden-Baden, Larnaca and Turku effective between March-July of this year, utilising A320 aircraft.
In addition to this, Cologne, Gothenberg, Malta and Hamburg will witness an increase in frequencies from Skopje in S19. Despite reporting an increase of 18% in seat capacity from the previous year, the insolvency of Germania in February of this year meant that Skopje lost some capacity on the popular Zurich and Düsseldorf routes. However, Wizz Air and Turkish Airlines were quick to fill in the 27,000-seat capacity void left behind by the debt-ridden German carrier.
Extending its dominance on the Macedonian market, Wizz Air handled just shy of 367,000 passengers on its Skopje services during the first half of the year. The Hungarian LCC is set to grow further, while also basing its fifth aircraft in Skopje, while Turkish Airlines has carried 47,000 one-way seats.
Skopje Airport serves a variety of destinations as the graph below shows, with a major focus on the European market. According to OAG Schedules Analyser top destinations by annual seat capacity for 2018 are Istanbul with over 100,000 one-way seats, followed by Vienna and Zurich, both with over 80,000 one-way seats. The furthest destination, Dubai, is operated by flydubai and covers a distance of 3,600 kilometres.
Skopje has seen strong growth in recent years from both full service carriers like Qatar Airways, and LCCs such as flydubai and Wizz Air. This growth has outweighed the drops caused by the failure of MAT Macedonia Airlines and more recently Germania, with such growth looking set to continue.