There is consensus among Plovdiv municipality, the regional administration and the Ministry of Transport that Plovdiv Airport needs a serious concession-holder with a plan to develop the airport and its financial capacity, according to Plovdiv mayor Ivan Totev.
Plovdiv Airport, long financially-troubled, was in the headlines in recent days after bad weather caused two flights that had been meant to land in Sofia to be diverted to the airport near Bulgaria’s second city – but the aircraft had to land in the dark on unattended runways and passengers waited for hours to be assisted.
The airport closes at 10pm and needs “advance notice” to deal with unscheduled landings, reports said, as the media asked questions about the decision to land the aircraft at Plovdiv Airport. There have been rival claims that the landing at Plovdiv was suggested by Sofia air traffic controllers and that the decision to land there was taken by the airline itself.
Plovdiv Airport already made the national news in February 2015, when airport director Ivan Karnabitov said that he was resigning because of disagreement with government policy on financing the airport and amid staff anger over unpaid salaries.
Karnabitov filed his resignation after a series of talks with the Transport Ministry, Bulgarian National Radio said at the time.
Of their January salaries, the 154 employees of the airport had been paid just 200 leva (about 100 euro). Staff were discussing going on strike, local media reports said.
Karnabitov told BNR that state funding not only had been cut by 22 per cent for 2014, but also had not been paid for several months, leaving the airport unable to pay employees’ salaries and social security contributions.
In April 2010, the majority share in Plovdiv Airport was bought by Denmark’s Nordic Airport Infrastructure from Alfa Finance Holding, which had held the majority share since 2007.
A new passenger terminal had been opened in August 2009, covering 6750 sq m, intended to serve up to 1000 passengers at peak hours and 500 000 passengers a year. The airport apron was extended in 2009 and can accommodate up to 13 mid-size aircraft at the same time, according to the airport. The runway length is 2500 metres and it is 45 metres wide.
Speaking on November 23 2015, Totev said that he would in the coming days meet the director of Plovdiv Airport, Vladimir Shtarbanov, to get further information about the state of the airport.
Totev said that the municipality and the airport management were in agreement that a concession-holder should be found as soon as possible, given that the airport was losing money and was costing the municipality large sums every year. The municipality had given 400 000 leva this year, he said.
Totev said that it had been at the insistence of the Ministry of Transport that about 50 airport staff had been laid off and the working hours cut from 22 to six hours.
He said that the landing of the two aircraft in the dark while the airport was closed was a precise illustration of the crisis.