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Ekonomia

Rinas airport will reach 10 million passengers within three years, flights also on transatlantic lines, says the director of "TIA" and reveals that "Kastrati Group" will invest 6 billion euros only in 2024

Rinas airport will reach 10 million passengers within three years, flights also

The growth of Tirana International Airport (TIA) is expected to be rapid in the coming years as well. Piervittorio Farabbi, the Operational Director of Tirana International Airport, claims that within three years, the number of passengers is expected to reach 10 million. At the same time, investments will be made to expand the capacity of TIA in many elements, such as adding parking, tripling the size of the terminal, renovating the runway and extending it, which will enable the operation of transatlantic lines with Canada and the USA. Interest in starting flights to Rinas is high from traditional and low-cost operators, not only from Europe. "We are looking to expand to the Middle East (there are already several flights, some of which are year-round) and Central Asia." Mr. Farabbi further says during his interview for "Monitor" magazine that "Kastrati Group", as the sole shareholder of Tirana International Airport, will complete important projects worth 60 million euros by the end of 2024 . The investments to be made at the airport are expected to exceed by 40% the initial investment value of 100 million euros, which was a condition of the concession agreement.

 - Mr. Farabbi, how would you evaluate TIA's progress in 2023, compared to your expectations? What are the main factors that influenced this progress?

The International Airport of Tirana has undergone a radical development during the last years. In 2023, Tirana Airport (TIA) was ranked among the fastest growing airports in Europe (ACI Europe data), 40% more than in 2022. Most importantly, TIA has successfully completed traffic recovery air traffic after COVID-19, faster than many other airports around the world, with almost 120% growth compared to 2019. We couldn't be happier about this impressive response of the Albanian aviation market, which is the main indicator in the extraordinary performance of the Albanian tourism sector, reaching the record figure of 10 million tourists in 2023. One of the main factors of the indisputable success is the expansion and capital investments to increase the infrastructural capacities of the airport and, consequently, the increase of the number of direct flights and international airlines already operating in Albania. An irreplaceable role in these results is also the promotion of the country in the international arena by the Albanian government and all the actors involved in this process, as a pearl of nature and tradition, in the heart of Europe.

- Since Kastrati Group took ownership of Rinas Airport, what is the value of investments in this airport?

Kastrati Group took a bold step, taking full control of TIA, in the midst of the world's worst aviation crisis, in 2021. However, the group chose to invest immediately in encouraging and supporting airlines that expressed interest to establish and increase their presence in Albania with more flights, bigger aircraft and the creation of large operational bases, as is the case of "Wizzair". Also, to cope with such growth, investments were immediately planned to improve the passenger experience at TIA. To understand more clearly the nature of these investments, it is important to remember that the current concession agreement requires the airport operator to invest 100 million euros in new infrastructures by 2040. Meanwhile, Kastrati Group, as the sole shareholder of Tirana International Airport, until the end of 2024, will complete important projects worth 60 million euros (6 billion euros). The investments to be made at the airport are expected to exceed the initial investment value of 100 million euros by 40%.

- How is the increase in the number of passengers expected for 2024 and then in the medium term? Can you make a distinction between foreigners and locals? What are the factors that will affect these predictions, (positive and negative scenarios)?

Our latest forecast for 2024 has a target of 9 million passengers (MPPA), i.e. an increase of 25% from 2023. This also comes as a result of the great effect of the network of the airline company "Ryanair", which at one time short, can significantly affect the achievement of the predicted figures. Based on the new requests we have from various international airlines, we project that in the next three years we will reach 10 million passengers at the airport, because there are markets where we still have space to offer services. Also, we see that there is a change in the ratio of international travelers, adding more travelers who travel for tourism and work than those who visit friends and family.

- How much has the return of the country to a tourist destination helped in increasing your activity and vice versa?

There is definitely an interdependence between the traffic recorded by TIA and the figures recorded by the Albanian tourism sector. As mentioned above, TIA growth in 2023 was almost 40%, while international flows also increased from 7.5 million in 2022 to more than 10 million in 2023, almost 35% growth. It is clear that the marketing campaign promoting Albania worldwide is working effectively in driving interest and the airport acts as a key facilitator, especially for markets not easily accessible.

-What are the plans for the entry of new airlines and the addition of destinations?

More and more operators, both historical ones and low-cost (LCC), have shown interest in starting the activity in Tirana, in some cases introducing scheduled flights to destinations where previously only charter planes performed. Interest is not only from Europe. We are looking to expand to the Middle East (there are already several flights, some of which are year-round) and Central Asia. But, most importantly, with the investments we are making, safe flights will soon start operating on the transatlantic lines to Canada and the USA.

Discussions are ongoing with the operators of those markets and we hope to complete the feasibility analysis as soon as possible.

- How much investment is foreseen in the medium term for increasing the airport's capacity?

Airport capacity is measured as the common denominator of many different elements, or subsystems. It is not enough, for example, to expand the terminal to increase the overall capacity, as it also depends on how the airspace is managed. As such, TIA and Kastrati Group have addressed all key subsystems, planning investments in new car parking facilities and modern security equipment, tripling the size of the terminal and adding 50% more seats to the aircraft fleet. On the operational side, the planned renovation of the entire airport, runway and runways will allow TIA to increase the effectiveness of the interaction with AlbControl, with the aim of jointly implementing A-CDM (optimization of resources to increase efficiency airport) in Albania and to increase the capacity of the runway by 50%, which translates into an increase in air traffic (Air Traffic Movement) per hour. Work is already underway to extend the runway to allow long-haul flights to operate without restrictions.

- How much of a competitor will Vlora Airport be for you, given that the works have already started?

The Vlora airport will be an added value for Albanian aviation, which will also help for growth in the broad European plan. It is conceived as the airport serving the Albanian Riviera, offering short transfers for selected tourist groups visiting Albania. We welcome the role of this airport to better serve the ever-increasing number of passengers, especially tourists visiting the country.

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