Kosovo’s Pristina Airport Targets Long-Haul Flights With Runway Extension

Pristina International Airport (PRN) in Kosovo is setting its sights on the resumption of long-haul flights. As part of its bid to cater to long-haul carriers, in December 2021 the airport extended its runway by 500 meters and upgraded its instrument landing system (ILS). The airport has also now launched an incentive package for the next two years to attract carriers.

It is estimated that around one-third of people born in Kosovo now live outside the country. Despite there being a significant Kosovan diaspora outside of Europe, primarily in the United States and Australia, Pristina Airport has not seen any long-haul flights since 2009.

The short-lived service to New York JFK was operated from June to September 2009 by Sky King Airlines, using a Boeing 767-200ER aircraft.

Pristina International Airport is keen to attract long-haul services. Photo: Limak Kosovo via Wikipedia

What does the incentive package look like?

Pristina International Airport is offering a 100% discount on landing fees, a 20% reduction on handling fees, and €50,000 ($52,000) to be spent on marketing. In order to be eligible for the incentives, any new long-haul route will need to be a direct service, flown at least twice per week for two years, and operated by aircraft with a maximum take-off weight of at least 55,000 kg (60 tons).

A spokesperson for the airport stated,

“The purpose of the incentive program is to stimulate direct long-haul routes from Pristina Airport, expanding connectivity, and providing more options for passengers. We are using every opportunity to expand our route network or even double or triple services to existing destinations. Surely, with the runway extension, we will have heavier aircraft landing at Pristina Airport.”

Potential for growth at Pristina International Airport

Pristina International Airport has seen significant growth in recent years, reaching a pre-Covid high of over 2.3 million passengers. This year, passenger numbers look set to be even higher than those in 2019.

Despite the promising data, the airport currently has no long-haul services. Options for long-haul connections are offered primarily by Turkish Airlines via Istanbul and SWISS via Geneva.

United Airlines is operating more flights to Europe this summer than American Airlines and Delta Air Lines. Photo: Vincenzo Pace/Simple Flying

When looking at what carriers could potentially make use of the incentives and begin long-haul services from Pristina, United Airlines would be a prime candidate. The carrier already has the biggest European presence of the Big 3 US carriers, and this summer is starting a handful of new routes from its hub at Newark Liberty International Airport to Palma and Tenerife in Spain, and Ponta Delgada in Portugal.

When the Airbus A321XLR enters service in 2024, it could open up a whole host of options for other carriers too. Both United Airlines and American Airlines have ordered a significant number of the long-haul narrowbody aircraft.

Closer to home, Wizz Air, which already has a presence at Pristina International Airport, has ordered 47 A321XLRs. Will we see them operating long-haul services from Pristina in the future?

Will the Airbus A321XLR’s planned entry into service in 2024 open up long-haul routes for Pristina International Airport? Photo: Airbus

What long-haul routes would you like to see operated from Pristina Airport? Share your thoughts by commenting below.

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