Bosnian flag carrier B&H Airlines is already in talks with potential "strategic partners" to secure its future just days after Turkish Airlines announced that it was relinquishing its 49% stake in the airline.

Goran Jovanovic, president of B&H Airlines' board, says he is hopeful it will "soon reach a new agreement regarding a partnership".

Jovanovic declined to reveal details of potential investors, save to say that one was a "much bigger" regional carrier from outside of the European Union and another was "from the wider Balkan region".

Turkish Airlines announced on 14 June that it was handing back its shareholding in the carrier to the Bosnian government. Its investment in B&H Airlines dates from 2008 when it paid $6 million for its stake, on the understanding that both it and the Bosnian authorities would invest in the carrier.

However, Hamdi Topcu, the chairman of Turkish Airlines says: "We shared our know-how and supported B&H Airlines but we could not see the same effort from the Bosnian government."

Turkish Airlines had leased several aircraft to B&H, but the last of these, an Airbus A319 (TC-JLR), was returned to the parent company in February as relations between the two parties soured.

This leaves B&H solely operating a pair of ATR 72-200s. However, Jovanovic hopes to add two further aircraft next year which are likely to be jets rather than turboprops. It still has an order with Airbus for two A319s dating from 2000 and Jovanovic says it may revive this dormant commitment.

While admitting the airline is loss-making, Jovanovic stresses these losses are "minor compared with previous years" and "are not a problem".

He said the protracted negotiations with Turkish over its exit took "a lot of time and energy. But now we are on our own."

With its 100% stake in the airline restored, the Bosnian government will continue to support the carrier, adds Jovanovic.

Source: Air Transport Intelligence news