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François Berisot, Chief Executive Officer, Belgrade Airport

The Beginning Of A New Journey For Belgrade Airport

On 22nd March 2018, VINCI Airports signed a 25-year concession contract with the Government of Serbia covering Belgrade Nikola Tesla Airport financing, operation, maintenance, extension and reconstruction.

An investment plan worth more than €730 million is in place over the course of the concession period, to upgrade and modernise the airport. This constitutes a milestone in the country’s capital airport development, and one of the largest financial transactions ever carried out in Serbia.

What has changed since BELGRADE AIRPORT, as a member of VINCI Airports, the world’s leading private airport operator, took over the operational management of Belgrade Nikola Tesla Airport?

During the concession period, the extensive international experience and good practice of VINCI Airports will be applied. The comprehensive programme of modernisation, reconstruction and expansion, within the concession project, aims to boost growth in traffic, create additional value and improve passengers’ experience and comfort. We are building on the expertise of a world-class operator to grow Serbia’s main airport into a major hub for Southeast Europe, thus driving the country’s development by connecting it further to the rest of the world.

Despite the changing circumstances, VINCI Airports believes in the potential of both Serbia and Nikola Tesla Airport. We plan to develop traffic in a smart and sustainable manner. Our commitment to sustainability and positive mobility will allow us to make BELGRADE AIRPORT an exemplary company in terms of the social responsibility, reinforcement and empowerment of its people and the quality of service standards, as well as making Nikola Tesla Airport a reference in Europe for environmental performance.

The most visible current effects of the concession are works on the modernisation and expansion of Belgrade Nikola Tesla Airport, which started at the beginning of 2020. Which improvements are in the focus during this period and throughout 2021?

Modernisation works, carried out by VINCI Construction Grands Projects through its subsidiary VINCI Terna Construction, have been ongoing without major disruptions, even during the state of emergency in 2020, in accordance with all the recommendations and prescribed preventative health and safety measures. Further works are being carried out in parallel at several locations, which include the expansion of the terminal, a new secondary runway and additional taxiways, additional aircraft positions for parking and for de-/anti-icing winter operations, additional car parking spaces and new access roads. While construction of a new bus gate has already been completed, the majority of works will be carried out within the next three years. They will increase the airport’s capacity and improve the comfort and experience of our passengers and all users of the airport.

We recently completed works on the upgrading and modernisation of the entire central area on the boarding level within the terminal. The new area includes an expanded and modernised duty-free shop, as well as the Tesla Square, which now offers a relaxation zone and a variety of new commercial content. Passengers can already experience continuous improvements in comfort and in the look and feel of the airport.

We plan to develop traffic in a smart and sustainable manner. Our commitment to sustainability and positive mobility will allow us to make BELGRADE AIRPORT an exemplary company in terms of the social responsibility, reinforcement and empowerment of its people and the quality of service standards, as well as by making Nikola Tesla Airport a reference in Europe for environmental performance

VINCI Airports is determined to become the environmental standard setter for the airport sector and its AirPact strategy is setting very ambitious goals for its entire network of 45 airports. What does this mean for Belgrade Airport?

The concession project has a strong focus on sustainable business, in order to reduce the environmental impact in terms of emissions of greenhouse gases, water and waste, in accordance with the global policy of VINCI Airports. The construction of a new energy plant for the production and distribution of heat and electricity is underway, which will switch from heavy fuels to more environmentally efficient energy sources and reduce emissions. A 1MW Solar Farm, composed of 3,000 photovoltaic modules, will also be installed this year and will be able to supply the airport with around 1,200,000 kWh of clean energy per year, which is equivalent to the consumption of 80 households. This sustainable project will reduce 875 tons of CO2 per year from the airport’s carbon footprint. Furthermore, works on the construction of new solid waste processing plants in the airport’s public and airside area are on the way, as well as a wastewater treatment plant.

In November 2019, the airport made an important achievement in plans to reduce our carbon footprint by joining the Airports Carbon Accreditation – ACA Level 1 programme of the Airports Council International. ACA accreditation is the first result of the new environmental protection strategy developed at Belgrade Airport since it joined the VINCI Airports network. With our continuous efforts to follow VINCI group’s strong commitments in this area, we are sure that more results will come.

The pandemic posed new challenges for many industries. How has COVID-19 impacted on the airport’s everyday activities and traffic?

The COVID-19 crisis has had an unprecedented impact on the aviation industry, which is surely one of the industries worst affected by the pandemic globally. Of course, we are not the exception here in Serbia. Belgrade Airport has been able to count on the network effect of VINCI Airports to adapt quickly to these new circumstances, in order to provide for the efficient functioning of aviation services and a safe environment for our employees, passengers and all airport users, also through the global educational campaign “Protecting Each Other”. Our teams worked tirelessly, together with Air Serbia and other airlines’ teams, during the state of emergency, when there were no commercial flights to support the arrival of crucial medical equipment to combat COVID-19 in Serbia and repatriation flights. We are proud to welcome continuous arrivals of vaccines to the country.

In terms of traffic volume at our airport, in 2020 it reduced drastically to less than 30% compared to 2019. Together with the airlines and the rest of the industry, we are focused on continuing to re-build passenger confidence in flying by implementing very strict prevention measures and processes. Our airport recently received the Airport Health Accreditation from ACI, rewarding the exceptionally thorough sanitary measures that we put in place and confirming our dedication to maintain safe operations. We are doing all we can to reassure the travelling public that all the necessary prevention measures are in place.

Furthermore, ACI acknowledged our work with two Airport Service Quality Awards, based on our customer’s feedback. Belgrade Nikola Tesla Airport was awarded as the Best airport in Europe by Size and Region (5 to 15 million passengers per year), and for the Best hygiene measures by Region (Europe). These ACI awards have been awarded to Belgrade Nikola Tesla Airport for the first time and are a great achievement for Belgrade Airport only two years after joining VINCI Airports.

We highly appreciate the efforts and the great success of the Republic of Serbia regarding the whole vaccination process, in the hope that, together with all the preventative measures implemented, it will support the faster recovery of air traffic in Serbia. We are getting ready for that by building infrastructure of the future that will accommodate a full recovery and projected increases. We look forward to traffic growth during the coming summer season and to newly announced airlines and routes during this year.

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