28 December, 2020

Montenegro Airlines forced to close

The Government of Montenegro made a surprising move on Christmas Day this year and pulled the plug on its ailing national carrier Montenegro Airlines after 23 years of flying operations.

The airline said the decision to end its flying, instigated by the government was totally unexpected and prevented them from giving advance notice to passengers and the firm's bank accounts were blocked by the tax administration which halted the airline's ability to provide refunds or assistance to stranded passengers. "As of December 25, the company has no funds on the account with which it could refund any purchased and unused tickets. In addition to this, the partner companies have decided not to accept the passengers with our tickets on their flights, and the so-called involuntary rerouting procedure cannot be applied." Montenegro Airlines said in a statement posted to its website. 

"We are immensely sorry that you find yourself in a situation like this." the statement reads and at present, it is unknown if the government will provide funds to recompense those passengers with cancelled bookings,  worthless tickets or those having to find alternative means of returning home. 

The final flight, YM103 from Belgrade in Serbia to its hub, Podgorica, on Christmas Day was greeted with a water cannon salute by the airport's fire service.  Perhaps a fitting end for the 363 staff members that now find themselves out of work. 

The airline had been losing money, even prior to the grounded caused by the coronavirus pandemic and official sources in the government state there was no other option than to force the end of operations. The airline was, according to the government, in danger of having its Embraer E195 aircraft impounded by the lessors over non-payment of fees - said to be nearly 1.3 million euros. A government spokesperson also reported that staff salaries hadn't been paid since the end of September and there were numerous omissions and shortcomings by the firm's management.

Other large debts are reported to include €500,000 in handling charges and fees at Belgrade airport and €160,000 owed to Eurocontrol for to air navigation costs. 

Budget carrier Ryanair had previously accused the Montenegran Government of providing illegal state aid for the carrier and had been putting financial and political pressure on the authorities in recent months.  

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