Igor Salinger/PODGORICA

Montenegro Airlines is planning to boost its operations after taking delivery of its first Fokker 100.

The carrier continues to recover from the setbacks of last year, when Podgorica Airport, its base in the Yugoslavian republic's capital, was closed because of bomb damage to the runway and terminal, and the airline suffered a ban on flights imposed by the European Union.

Radonja Radovic, Montenegro Airlines' commercial manager, says the Fokker 100 was delivered last month, enabling more capacity on current flights and the introduction of new services, with Amsterdam, London, Milan and Moscow under consideration.

The carrier already operates services from Podgorica and Tivat to destinations such as Belgrade, Budapest, Frankfurt, Rome and Zurich. The aircraft was bought from KLM uk for $12 million, with finance provided by the Montenegrin Government topped up with funds raised from the sale of its two Fokker F28 Mk4000s. One of the F28s has been leased back to fly the summer schedule.

Further fleet modernisation plans include the purchase of a second Fokker 100 by the end of the year, when a decision is due on whether to continue leasing the remaining F28.

Radovic hopes to see annual passenger growth of 30-35% over the next five years, requiring up to three larger aircraft with 120-seat capacity.

Since its start-up in 1997, the carrier has been beset by problems beyond its control. Trade sanctions, flight bans and NATO's operation Allied Force against Yugoslavia have all affected operations. Despite all that, the airline's two F28s carried around 102,000 passengers in 1999.

The Yugoslav republic - favoured by the West because of its political opposition to the Belgrade regime - is using the carrier to connect Montenegro with other European states, promoting tourism and business links as it moves towards sovereignty from Belgrade.

A second operator has started passenger flights from Montenegro. Pelikan Blue Line, a private company based in Podgorica, acquired its first Ayres Let L-410UVP-E turboprop in February and a second is due to arrive by the end of this month.

Pelikan has introduced services to Bari in Italy, and plans to introduce more international and domestic services as well as flying ad hoc charter operations. Founded in 1997, the airline has previously run flight training, air taxi and cargo services.

Source: Flight International