Huge passenger growth creates new problems at Sofia Airport
By Mark Thomas, Managing Director of Sofia-based Jamadvice Travel, one of the longest established travel businesses in Bulgaria and partner of HRG, a global travel management company with operations throughout the world.
Sofia’s new airport terminal opened in the last days of 2006 to coincide with the country’s accession into the EU in January 2007. The new facility is certainly up to the mark and matches many such airport terminals around Europe in terms of quality, space, brightness and functionality. It is never overcrowded and seems to be fit for purpose. Parallel to this, the passenger traffic at Sofia is currently going through a significant growth period: passenger numbers were up an excellent 7.2% in 2015 compared with the previous year, for the first eight months of this year the increase is a massive 13.6%! There is a problem, though. This growth is being driven by the so called Low Cost Carriers e.g. Wizz, Easyjet etc., and these airlines operate not from the spacious new terminal but the old and partially refurbished terminal, whose infrastructure can barely cope with the surge.
For 2015, Wizz Air carried the most passengers of any airline from Sofia with a 29% market share; Easyjet had 4.6%. Of the traditional carriers – who use the new terminal – Bulgaria Air had a 27% market share and Lufthansa/Austrian 7.1%. The likes of Turkish and BA had 4.5% and 2.6% respectively. The bottom line is that the spacious new terminal was handling only marginally more than the old cramped terminal. It doesn’t stop there though.