North Macedonia’s Ministry of Transport and Communications has said it received bids from three carriers - Aegean Airlines, Lufthansa, and Wizz Air - for subsidies designed to encourage the launch of new routes to its two airports: Skopje and Ohrid.

During the public call for bids, which lasted from December 20 last year to January 26, the three airlines “submitted documentation” and “a commission composed of members from several state institutions will evaluate the submitted offers in the coming period,” the ministry said in a statement posted on its website on January 27.

The subsidies, which are “in accordance with the policies of fair and competitive conditions according to the regulations of the European Union,” are “aimed at encouraging and developing air traffic” in the country, as well as “the quality development of civil aviation, establishing more competitive and affordable ticket prices,” and opening new destinations for local residents.

Transport minister Blagoj Bochvarski announced the call on December 20, saying at the time that funds would be allocated to attract new airlines over three years, from 2023 to the end of 2025. Wizz Air has won all three previous tenders, in which it was the sole candidate to apply, but Bochvarski stressed that “this public call is different from the previous ones, and more airlines can be selected.”

Conditions to apply included that airlines must have an AOC issued by a European Union member state, must have transported at least 10 million passengers in 2019, and must have made a profit of at least EUR25 million euros (USD27 million) in 2019, the minister said. The support will be awarded according to, in order of importance, the period of operation, the number of weekly flights, the attractiveness of the airport to which it operates, and the number of seats offered for sale.

The amount awarded will be EUR7 (USD7.60) per departing passenger from Skopje and EUR4.50 (USD4.89) per passenger from Ohrid.

North Macedonia does not have its own scheduled carrier. According to the ch-aviation capacities module, Wizz Air currently dominates traffic at Skopje with 53.68% of the market, and also maintains a base there, offering 25 routes from the North Macedonian capital. Aegean Airlines operates a single route, from Athens. Lufthansa does not fly to North Macedonia at all, but its subsidiaries Austrian Airlines and Swiss unit Edelweiss Air do. They are among 12 scheduled carriers that serve Skopje this winter season.

Wizz Air also currently operates three of the four scheduled routes to Ohrid (from Vienna; Basel/Mulhouse/Freiburg, FR; and Dortmund), the fourth being courtesy of Switzerland’s Chair Airlines (from Zurich).