European budget airlines could enter the Albanian market after the government signed a deal ending Tirana International Airport’s exclusive rights over international flights to and from the country. This paves the way for the opening of the country’s second airport, in Kukes, by the end of this year, the transport ministry said.
The operator of Tirana airport, Germany’s Rinas, was awarded a 20-year concession agreement effective from 2005, under which no other airport could be licensed for international commercial flights in Albania.
After two years of negotiations, Albania has signed a new agreement with the German concessionaire ending its exclusive right to international flights. Under the agreement, the concession contract which was signed with Tirana International Airport will be extended by two years, with the possibility of a further extension.
The main aim of the new agreement with TIA is market liberalisation. The exclusivity enjoyed by Rinas was a stumbling block for opening other airports in Albania, which made it harder for the country to attract foreign visitors.
“We will begin immediately to take appropriate steps to make the airport in Kukes operational, which, according to the agreement, can operate the moment it is approved by the parliament,” the transport ministry said in a statement on April 2.
It is expected that the new airport in Kukes, in northeastern Albania, will create 200 new jobs.
Albania Daily News said on April 3, citing transport minister Edmond Haxhinasto, that international flights from Kukes can start by the end of the year. The minister added that Kukes airport can be given under a concession agreement or managed by a public company, which is the most likely option and would require an investment of €3mn.
The agreement will also enable the entry of low-cost airlines to Albania, and will have a positive impact on employment and tourism.
Haxhinasto confirmed that two low-cost operators - Ryanair and Wizz Air - are interested in operating in Albania.
The government also launched a process for drafting a feasibility study for the construction of airports in the country’s south.