The Serbian government has formed a taskforce which is holding daily meetings with Belgrade Nikola Tesla Airport’s management to address the frequent flight delays, staff shortages and other bottlenecks which it has blamed on the global airport operator. The country’s Minister for Construction, Transport and Infrastructure, Goran Vesić, said, “We have discussed actions that will be taken in the coming days in order for passengers to get the service they paid for. We are monitoring the situation on a daily basis. The taskforce that has been formed is made up of all stakeholders from Serbia’s aviation sector. Representatives of [airport operator] VINCI have been informed that the Serbian Civil Aviation Directorate will launch tender procedures by the end of the week for the selection of two new ground handling operators. This way we will enable greater competition and better service. All the major global ground handling operators have been informed of the upcoming tender. Furthermore, we have discussed ways to quickly modify legislation to enable the installation of self-service passport eGates on arrival”.
According to the Minister, the airport is facing significant issues in its baggage sorting facility, which is understaffed. Furthermore, in a bid to cut long queues, the airport is set to open a further three passport booths on arrival in the coming weeks. “I have emphasised to VINCI to introduce ushers who will assist passengers waiting in line and direct them to the next available booth”, Mr Vesić said. He added that daily meetings are now being held with the airport’s management and other key players in the country’s aviation industry each morning at 8.00. “Unlike other European airports, which are also experiencing issues, our goal is for passengers to have a carefree experience and be provided with the service they paid for when they purchased their ticket”.
VINCI has not directly responded to the government’s criticism but has said it is in the process of hiring 100 new employees at Belgrade Airport. A number of new staff members are currently undergoing training. However, Mr Vesić has remained critical of the operator. “They [VINCI] knew that Air Serbia would introduce 22 new routes and increase operations by 40%. They also knew that Flydubai would increase operations by 193%, Wizz Air by 109% and Turkish Airlines by 80%. Simply said, they could have predicted it would be a busy year”. Belgrade Airport is on course to handle over seven million passengers this year.