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News 24 Nov 15

Bosnia's National Airline Awaits Imminent Closure

BH Airlines, the troubled national carrier of Bosnia and Herzegovina, is likely to be put into liquidation before the end of the year after running up a debt of around 17.5 million euros.

Rodolfo Toe
BIRN
Sarajevo
 
 BH Airlines | Photo: Flickr

BH Airlines, which suspended all its flights at the beginning of June, could be shut down completely by the end of this year, the union representing the company’s workers told BIRN on Monday.

“The government of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina [one of the country’s two entities], which is formally BH Airlines' owner, confirmed that there is no possibility of saving the company,” said union representative Elvis Ziga.

Around 80 workers are currently employed by BH Airlines, and while some of them will find new jobs at Sarajevo airport, the future of 50 of them remains unclear.

“We'll probably end up in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s employment bureau, waiting for a new job,” said Ziga.

“We haven't received our salary for the past nine months. We're just calling on the government of the Federation to officially start the liquidation of the company,” he said.

The workers hope that they finally will get their unpaid wages as part of the liquidation process.

The company has a total debt of 35 million Bosnian marks (17.5 million euro), the prime minister of the Federation, Fadil Novalic, said this summer.

Despite the airline’s problems, the Federation’s Ministry of Transport and Communications told BIRN that the entity’s authorities still haven't fixed a precise date for a decision on the liquidation of the company.

“We currently don't know when this issue will be addressed by the government,” said ministry spokesperson Amila Coralic.

BH Airlines began to operate in 1994 under the name Air Bosna as the national carrier for Bosnia and Herzegovina. It was declared bankrupt in 2003 and started operating again in 2005 under its current name.

It used to fly to seven international destinations. Some of them - Copenhagen, Frankfurt, Gothenburg and Stockholm - are no longer served with direct connections from Bosnia and Herzegovina.

“The liquidation of BH Airlines is a huge loss for Bosnia, not only from an economic point of view but also for civil aviation in our country,” Duljko Hasic, an economic analyst from the Chamber of Commerce of Bosnia and Herzegovina, told BIRN.

“The government of the Federation has pumped millions from the public budget into the bank account of BH Airlines without any result. This situation has being going on for years, but they basically only prolonged its agony,” said Hasic.

The Federation government used to give the airline around four million euros a year, according to the BH Airlines workers’ union.

In spite of the financial backing from public coffers, the carrier was far from being popular amongst Bosnian travellers, due to its poor service and frequent flight cancellations.

“I travelled just once with BH Airlines, in 2013,” Allen, a 26-year-old from Vitez in central Bosnia, told BIRN.

“Our flight from Sarajevo to Zurich was quite expensive. We made one stop in Banja Luka and the plane was old and uncomfortable. That company never worked properly and its liquidation is probably the only logical solution,” he said.

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