The Sarajevo-based start-up FlyBosnia has acquired its first aircraft, a sixteen-year-old Airbus A319 from AerCap, as it prepares to launch operations. The Saudi-backed airline has applied the FlyBosnia livery to the jet, which is currently in Sofia undergoing a cabin retrofit. It has been named Sarajevo. Originally, the airline planned to commence services between Sarajevo and Riyadh in June but failed to obtain an Air Operator’s Certificate (AOC) from the Bosnia and Herzegovina Directorate for Civil Aviation. In a recent company presentation, FlyBosnia said, “Operating initially one Airbus A319 aircraft under a dry lease agreement, FlyBosnia will add a second A319 within six to twelve months to provide extra capacity on the Sarajevo – Riyadh route, as well as new destinations when operationally viable”.
According to the carrier, it’s the first aircraft will be fitted with 156 seats, twelve of which are in business class and 144 in premium economy. “FlyBosnia has conducted extensive market research into creating an innovative, sustainable concept. The airline will offer passengers: a simple and clear pricing structure, allocated seating, combined business class and premium economy class configurations and online check-in at the point of purchase”. It added, “With no competitors presently operating a direct Sarajevo – Riyadh service, FlyBosnia anticipates that a successful launch and strong demand will fuel further expansion of the route network and fleet. Ticket pricing will be dynamic and highly competitive, supported by an extensive, integrated marketing campaign and promotion. Existing connections with hotel and travel agencies will support and drive passenger demand. FlyBosnia’s online booking system will account for up to 80% of all ticket sales, enabling the airline to minimize distribution costs and, therefore, maintain a strong competitive pricing advantage”.
FlyBosnia has been set up by Saudi Arabia’s Al Shiddi Group, which was founded in 1975 with interests in various fields, including construction, real estate, agriculture and tourism. It has been operating in Bosnia and Herzegovina since 2006, where the group consists of four companies – SRE Investment, Shad Invest, Sarajevo City Center (SCC) and Hotel Bristol. To date, they have committed in excess of twenty million euros in start-up capital to FlyBosnia. “FlyBosnia has conducted extensive market research and detailed operational and financial business planning. Bosnia and Herzegovina is an emerging tourist destination, experiencing year-on-year growth of between 10% – 20%. There is no existing national airline serving Bosnia and Herzegovina, so FlyBosnia will immediately apply for national carrier status”, the company said in its presentation.
The new airline plans to primarily focus on catering for the strong demand between Bosnia and the Middle East. It noted that it has already gained practical experience through operating charter services between Sarajevo and Riyadh through Nesma Airlines. “Recent changes to immigration policies will further boost passenger demand. In the high season, FlyBosnia will add extra flights and/or aircraft to match increased seasonal demand and potential new routes to Jeddah, Doha, Manama (Bahrain) and Kuwait City”. The carrier’s projected average annual load factor in its first year of operations stands at 56.7%, in its second year at 67.9% and in its third year at 68.3%. “These assumptions have been based on established performance results of existing charter services. Initial plans are to operate twenty days per month, allowing time for safety training, maintenance and ad-hoc charter services”, it added.
In May, the airline’s future cabin crew completed their training. Out of 300 applicants, a total of ten female and five male cabin crew were selected and trained. The start-up has previously said it will officially unveil all of its plans once it is granted an AOC.