Priština International Airport is one of the great success stories of a country seeking to rebuild its fortunes in the European Union. After the highly destructive war in Kosovo which left the country and its people in tatters the airport was not in a good state of repair.
The air terminal and runway were bombed; the air traffic control tower, radar and other technical facilities were destroyed, and all of the equipment was damaged or stolen, but with resourcefulness and determination the former military base was turned into a modern and profitable international airport. The re-establishment of the airport as part of the transport infrastructure was essential for the economy of the country.
PRIŠTINA AIRPORT TURNAROUND
The airport has developed a range of airport services such as receiving and dispatching planes and passengers, being a cargo depot, providing air service catering and sale of retail goods through airport outlets, as well as other commercial activities such as renting business premises and providing parking facilities at the airport.
The airport is located about 16km outside of the centre of Priština and handles between 800,000 and a million passengers a year.
The airport was first opened in 1965 and was only for domestic flights to and from the then capital of Yugoslavia, Belgrade. In the 1990s the airport began to run international flights to Switzerland and Germany. After the Kosovan war in 1999 the airport entered a new era as a military airport. This was short-lived and following a short period where NATO and KFOR (Russia) was in charge of the airport the airport returned to its own control in mid-2000.
Before airport operations could start properly a lot of renovation was required. Halcrow was appointed by the Kosovo Trust Agency (KTA) to advise on the best course of action to re-establish the airport. Under the UN the KTA was responsible for the development of public companies such as the airport. Halcrow were able to provide technical, operational and aviation assistance to the consortium.
One of the first things to fix was the runway (17/35 8,202ft 2,500m). The asphalt-paved runway was repaired along with the parking apron and single passenger terminal, which were also expanded.
This work was project managed by Scott Wilson Kirkpatrick Ltd and was completed in 2002 to get the airport working to ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organisation) category one standard.
To embark on the €50m project the company controlling PIA (Priština International Airport) was awarded funds from several different sources including the EBRD (European Bank for Reconstruction and Development), the European Investment Bank (€18m) and the UK Department for International Development (£3m).
In the period from 2002 to 2005 the airport facilities were totally reorganised and rebuilt and equipment was replaced and upgraded where it was required (there was heavy investment in equipment and also in the training of staff). The passenger traffic has since increased by 100% every year.
There were reports in October 2005 that a former director of the airport, Ioan Woollett, favoured British Airways flights to Kosovo by providing free slots and depriving the airport of revenue. This was at a time when the airport was trying to re-establish as many flights to Kosovo as possible to gain more business (BA had three flights a week to the airport). Charges to use the airport have since been reviewed.
In June 2006 the airport was afforded the honour of an award by Airport Council International (ACI) (Best Airport 2006 Award). The award comes in five categories and Priština won the under-one-million-passenger category. The airport was selected for achievement in airport development, operations, facilities, security and safety, and customer service.
Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General of the UN (DSRSG) Joachim Ruecker said: “Priština International Airport’s transformation from a war-torn, former military base into a modern, dynamic airport serving a key role as a gateway to the Balkans, is a remarkable story.
“The ‘Best Airport 2006 Award’ from Airports Council International is a fantastic achievement and reflects the airport’s outstanding progress.”
In addition James Johnson, managing director of Priština International Airport said on receiving the award: “I am delighted to accept this award on behalf of the airport team and the community that we serve. Priština International Airport has a unique history and has undergone an extraordinary transformation from a military to a civilian airport. ACI’s ‘Best Airport 2006 Award’ recognises this development. This is a great day for Priština International Airport.”