RyanAir May Begin Flights to Podgorica

Ryanair is in negotiations with the government of Montenegro to provide flights between Podgorica and London’s Stansted airport and Glasgow’s Prestwick airport.  The negotiations appear to have some very odd requirements.

The government is pushing for year-round service to Podgorica.  At first glance, it makes far more sense for RyanAir to provide additional capacity during the peak Summer months and then to not compete with Montenegro Airlines during off-season.  The push for year-round service looks to be either a poison-pill injected into the negotiations by someone intending to sabotage the deal or it is the first volley in a serious attempt to unseat Montenegro Airlines as the dominant carrier.

Another potential poison pill in the negotiations is the odd requirement that RyanAir be required to carry 100,000 passengers in the first year.  This is a full fifth of all passengers at Podgorica airport.  It doesn’t seem likely that one our of five passengers from Podgorica will want to fly to London or Glasgow.  Earlier this year, Montenegrin Airlines suspended flights to London due to low customer interest — although the low interest may have been due mostly to high prices. In addition, RyanAir is reportedly being asked to carry 50,000 passengers during the low-season — which is probably closer to half of all low-season passengers.

The last oddity is that negotiations are centering on the Podgorica airport instead of the Tivat airport.  Passengers from London and Glasgow are far more likely to be tourists interested in traveling to the Bay of Kotor than bureaucrats traveling to Podgorica.  Currently, those tourist passengers either fly to Dubrovnik and drive to Montenegro or they pay ridiculously high ticket prices to fly directly into Tivat.

In return for these strange requirements, Podgorica Airport is offering RyanAir a discount on airport fees and is also offering to help fund a marketing campaign to fill seats on the flights.  It might make more sense to offer RyanAir fewer financial incentives and burden them with fewer uneconomic requirements.

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