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Goodbye To Balkan Airlines  
User currently offlineJU101 From Canada, joined Mar 2001, 832 posts, RR: 4
Posted (11 years 7 months 4 weeks 23 hours ago) and read 1936 times:

The Bulgarian government have finalized their intentions regarding the future of Balkan Airlines. As of next month, Balkan Air Tours will take over Balkan Airlines. From the takeover, Balkan Air Tours will take possession of one Tupolev 154 and two Boeing 737-300s. The two Boeing 737s are owned by Lufthansa, however Balkan Airlines agreed to lease these two aircraft over a period of 28 months. Its worthy to mention that Sofia Airport owns Balkan Air Tours.

In the passed few months the Bulgarian government received concrete offers from only three Bulgarian carriers. At a certain point JAT from Serbia was holding behind-the-doors talks with the Bulgarian government about a possible takeover, however they ended without success.

Its hard to believe that this is the end of Balkan Bulgarian, but yet it was inevitable without drastic intervention. Perhaps the most tragic event for the airline was when they traded their prized slots at London Heathrow Airport with British Airways. At that time it was clear about how serious the situation was. Overall Balkan Airlines had an over 90-million USD debt to its creditors, and the airline had very few fixed assets.

In my opinion Balkan Air Tours will not find it any easier. The name fits well for a charter company rather than a national airline. Furthermore, no other Bulgarian companies have shown leadership in the Bulgarian market, though perhaps Hemus Air is the strongest amongst them all.

Heres my tribute to Balkan Bulgarian Airlines...

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Photo © Eduard Marmet
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Photo © Jörg Tegen



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Photo © Alexander Jonsson
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Photo © Gordon Zammit



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Photo © Michael F. McLaughlin
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Photo © Paul Robinson



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Photo © Chris Sheldon
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Photo © Jason Taperell



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Photo © Tamsin Zvereva
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Photo © Peter Unmuth - Vienna Aviation Photography


...the airline that once was.

7 replies: All unread, jump to last
 
User currently offlineGmunich From United States of America, joined Jan 2000, 42 posts, RR: 0
Reply 1, posted (11 years 7 months 4 weeks 22 hours ago) and read 1877 times:

Yes, it's sad to see them go. But, on the other hand, they were asking for it during the nineties. A lot of blame goes to the previous Union of Democratic Forces (UDF) government, (unfairly!) which sold them to that Israeli thing, Zeevi. But I believe by the time the deal was struck, LZ was already unsolvable. During the Socialist government in the mid nineties they operated 8 (eight!!!) types of a/c: AN12, AN24, IL18, TU134, TU154, A320, B735 and B762. The then-CEO person, Dotsov, was even thinking about adding IL114 and YAK42 to the bunch. What is this??? Obviously, not exactly exemplary management... A lot of bad examples can be given: absurd network, abysmal service, horrendous unions, embezzlement, debts to blow your mind, you name it... By mid-1999 the UDF government faced the awful dilemma of either shutting LZ down, or trying to sell them in a last-ditch attempt to salvage something. Mind you, the unions were sabotaging every effort to make things right all along. But that's what unions do, right? And, to top things off, Balkan got bought by those rats, Zeevi group. All of the above would sink ANY airline many times over...

So, now on to Balkan AirTour (FB). Let's wish them luck, and may they not repeat their predecessor's mistakes, which should be fairly easy.

JU101, some update on your info: FB already flies, and the two 733 are due back to LH in mid-April. I wander what they'll lease after that...


User currently offlineJU101 From Canada, joined Mar 2001, 832 posts, RR: 4
Reply 2, posted (11 years 7 months 4 weeks 13 hours ago) and read 1822 times:

Gmunich,
Nice to see you again. I was aware that Balkan Air Tours is already flying, however i am slightly surprised that the two 737s will be returned this coming spring. I hope Balkan Air Tours will at least operate a rational fleet, and fly for profitability rather than prestige.

Perhaps you may be able to answer the following question: Did the incompetant management from Balkan Bulgarian dissolve into all the other existing Bulgarian carriers? Will Balkan Air Tours have to deal with the LZ union members?


User currently offlineJumboClassic From United States of America, joined Jun 2000, 315 posts, RR: 0
Reply 3, posted (11 years 7 months 4 weeks 9 hours ago) and read 1760 times:

JU101,

IIRC, the 2 733s were leased in Jun'02 for a period of 10 months only - that's why they are due back in Apr. Some local newspapers report that decison about the new fleet should be made by Feb, which is consistent with the returning of the 733s. I wonder, now that UAL is almost in Chapter 11, there should be a lot of dirty cheap A/C for lease in the near future. Tons of 733/735s and maybe some 763s. Just the right types for BAT (Bulgarian Air Tours).

JC


User currently offlineGmunich From United States of America, joined Jan 2000, 42 posts, RR: 0
Reply 4, posted (11 years 7 months 4 weeks 6 hours ago) and read 1736 times:

JU101,

Some of the old Balkan management did indeed dissolve into other Bulgarian carriers, others left the country after sucking LZ dry. I don't know about the unions, but I would refrain from dismissing them alltogether. Some people from the unions do sincerely care about Bulgarian aviation, question is are they willing and able to work with the management in a free market enviroment. Let's hope so. As far as FB's management itself, the top of it seems uninfluenced by old LZ people so far. I think this is good, plus the Bulgarian government wants to sell them ASAP, maybe as soon as June 2003. We'll see what happens. Overall, I have a good feeling about FB, the only thing is that they should have done it about a year ago.


User currently offlineJU101 From Canada, joined Mar 2001, 832 posts, RR: 4
Reply 5, posted (11 years 7 months 4 weeks 6 hours ago) and read 1736 times:

I was then clearly misinformed about the extent of the leasing agreement with Lufthansa. Nevertheless even if United goes bankrupt, i think Balkan Air Tours would at the best case get there hands on a few 737s. Otherwise they should follow the model of Air Bosna or Air Adriatic, and get a few MD-80s instead. I would certainly expect the MD-80s to cost less than the Boeing 737. And since we are on the topic of fleet, Balkan Air Tours should stick to at most two aircraft types.

I do hope someone could answer my original questions though:

Did the incompetant management from Balkan Bulgarian dissolve into all the other existing Bulgarian carriers? Will Balkan Air Tours have to deal with the LZ union members?


User currently offlineGmunich From United States of America, joined Jan 2000, 42 posts, RR: 0
Reply 6, posted (11 years 7 months 3 weeks 6 days 10 hours ago) and read 1685 times:

JU101,

See my post above. Hope it helps answer your questions.


User currently offlineJU101 From Canada, joined Mar 2001, 832 posts, RR: 4
Reply 7, posted (11 years 7 months 3 weeks 6 days 10 hours ago) and read 1683 times:

Gmunich,
Thanks for your follow up. We must have been writing responses at about the same time, so i didnt get to yours before i sent mine.

I wonder if Balkan Air Tours will seriously change their name though, since the current name does not reflect the market they are interested in. It would certainly be a positive move forward if the company can get possession of a few modest western aircraft, operate lets say 10 high frequency routes, and develop a good corporate website. I am sure that they would hatch into the Bulgarian market once they have proven that they are an airline that people can trust, and an airline that would come under threat of terminating routes overnight. Lets hope that those people from LZ that do come to FB are people with a good and productive record.


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