FlyBosnia, An Interesting New Airline…

Filed Under: Other Airlines

I love following start-up airlines, and Bosnia and Herzegovina just has a new airline based in Sarajevo that commenced operations this month.

Bosnia and Herzegovina is near the top of my list of European countries to visit (as it’s one of the few I haven’t been to), and of course I’d love to go there on a new airline. However, based on the routes that this airline flies, I don’t think I’ll be flying them anytime soon.

The basics of FlyBosnia

FlyBosnia currently has a fleet of two Airbus A319s, with a further two A319s on order, expected to be delivered by the end of the year. Each plane has 138 seats, and is in a one class configuration, so there’s no premium cabin.

Bosnia and Herzegovina is a growing tourist destination, so where are their first flights to? Probably not where you’d expect! FlyBosnia operates:

  • 3x weekly flights from Sarajevo to Kuwait City
  • Daily flights from Sarajevo to Riyadh (as of June 3, 2019)
  • 1x weekly flight between Sarjevo and Qassim (as of June 11, 2019)

Each of these routes covers a distance of around 2,000 miles, so the flights are 4-5 hours long. That’s to say that these aren’t short routes.

Are FlyBosnia’s routes totally nuts, or…?

Bosnia and Herzegovina is getting more tourists by the year, though at first I kind of thought to myself that these seemed like three really strange routes for an airline to start with. Did the airline have Kuwaiti or Saudi investors, and somehow that’s how they decided on these routes? Are these flights intended to transport workers from Bosnia and Herzegovina to the Middle East?

But the more I think of it, maybe this isn’t so crazy?

  • Over half of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s population is Muslim, so you’ll have some people going for religious reasons
  • Many of the tourists to Bosnia and Herzegovina are actually coming from the Middle East
  • Sarajevo already has a good bit of traffic from the Middle East, as FlyDubai, Qatar Airways, and Turkish Airlines, already fly there, along with flynas with a seasonal flight from Riyadh

The one thing that surprises me is that if the flight is targeting Saudi and Kuwaiti tourists wanting to visit Bosnia and Herzegovina, you’d think they’d have a premium cabin as well.

I’ll be curious to see FlyBosnia develop over time, and to see if all their routes will be to & from the Middle East, or if they’ll also eventually have some European routes.

(Tip of the hat to niko_jas)

  1. Bosnia is one of few countries Chinese can visit without visa ( along with neighboring Serbia ). I guess this new airline might have an agreement with Saudia as there is 4 time a week flight between CAN and RUH. But it would make much more sense to connect from Dubai or Qatar thought.

  2. You found out so much more about them than I did. Nice to read your post! You’d think they’d want to fly at least somewhere within Europe, easy enough to do since their planes must have quite a lot of time on the ground not being used based on the launch schedule.

  3. You probably have part of the answer here.

    Tons of investment from the middle east going on in Bosnia. As you said, quiet a lot of muslim there, but not as much mosque-goers there as in the middle east. So not the best relationship with those strong religious practices from the middle easters right now. And Bosnia (while cheap) offers a nice mild weather outstation for a secondary residency.

  4. Loved Bosnia. Go! We went in September. It was warm but nice. Sarajevo captured my heart. Take a walking tour. Go to Mostar too. Yes, it’s a bit touristy, but you also get many reminders of the war. Eat lots of grilled meat there. And we took a side trip to Kravice Falls – great place to lounge and splash around on a warm day (plus eat more meat and drink beer). Go!

  5. I think that there is also considerable amount of locals who will use it because they are a workforce for the oil industry so they likely have some contracts with oil firms who purchase blocks of seats on those planes. Some oil companies have their own planes that fly people in and some use commercial.

    It would be interesting to see just how much tourism develops between those nations as a result of the new routes.

  6. There are property developers in Bosnia who are trying to create a safe haven second home scenario for upper middle class families from Gulf states in the same way the South Americans own half of Miami, the Chinese own half of Vancouver, and the Russians own large chunks of London. It’s Muslim enough for folks from the Gulf States to be reasonably comfortable from a cultural standpoint, and has a good amount of geopolitical stability compared to ‘back home’ for many of those families.

  7. Bosnia is truly fascinating – loved it. It is exotic yet in Europe! I loved Mostar, though Sarajevo was interesting, sort of like Jerusalem of Europe where you see clusters of different old religious house (mosques, churches, and synagogue) in a relatively confined area.

    As for aviation part – apparently during independence war many Saudi volunteer fighters took part siding with Bosniaks and the relationships must be staying strong. That doesn’t mean the destinations they chose are lucrative, but it may be beyond tourism perspective. It’ll be interesting to see how they stick.

    By the way, they used be an airline called Air BiH or sth in the past based in Sarajevo – they flew mostly within Europe and made more sense destination wise.

  8. I suspect there’s plenty of Bosnian expats working in the Middle East, too. They’re attractive for Middle Eastern employers because a) they get the prestige of employing Western expats while paying relatively low wages b) they share the same religion thus easier transition culturally c) those Eastern Europeans tend to view the Middle East as their ticket to get out of a generally depressed job market at home.
    Just look at how many Eastern Europeans FAs Emirates, Qatar and Etihad have for proof!

  9. @Hiro

    There was an airline operating called B&H Airlines, though as per it’s Wikipedia page, it shut down in 2015. Sarajevo airline doesn’t have any one airline based there dominating the airport and/or using it as a hub, so we’ll see how things happen for this airline.

    Also the routes are interesting as although people seem to think of Bosnia as a Muslim country, Muslims make up between 50 to 53% of the population.

  10. FlyBosnia is actually owned by a Saudi investment group, called Al-Shiddi. They are mainly property developers, who have been building shopping malls and second-home properties in the mountains around Sarajevo.
    The routes seem illogical at first – the costs are prohibitively high for Bosnians, as one-way tickets start at 400 euros. No one goes for religious reasons to Riyadh, as there are organized charter flights to Mecca. However, the airlines and their flights are evidently aimed at Saudi and Kuwaiti middle-class tourists (sometimes even owners of the real-estate developed by the investment group), who have been flocking to Bosnia in the past couple of years.

    Bosnia and Herzegovina is a very picturesque country (it’s not a completely subjective opinion!) – if you do plan to visit, feel free to reach out, I will be happy to help.

  11. Just spent a few days in Bosnia last week and we found it stunning. Lots to see and excellent food. And a place with quite some history.

  12. If you do go to Bosnia, please don’t just go to Sarajevo and Mostar, see the other parts of the country, including Banja Luka, the second city!

  13. Went to Bosnia 2 years ago. Agree with the comments about large investments from ME countries. Btw, it’s my favorite country I’ve visited so far. It’s like going back in time. One of these days I’m gonna write a post about why I loved it so much.

  14. visited Srbska, Bosnia and Herzegovina in 2017. Banja Luka and Sarajevo were pretty disappointing and the country as a whole is very much underdeveloped. Herzegovina was stunning. i heard from someone in Sarajevo that there were Qataris that have a vacation home there so I’m not surprised to hear there are lots of investment from the GCC

  15. FlyBosnia is introducing flights to London in September, and to Rome and Paris probably later in the year.

    There is a fair amount of investment coming in from Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Keep in mind that tourists from Persian Gulf countries love the idea of owning real estate in a lush green country. Switzerland is very expensive, so Bosnia became very attractive as it is rich with green mountains, rivers, and lakes. Sadly, Europe abandoned Bosnia during the 1992-1995 war and is now doing the same with few investments. With growing Euroskepticism, investors from other parts of the world pitched in.

    One of the reasons FlyBosnia focused on the Persian Gulf market is to take advantage of the incoming traffic from that region. Keep in mind that Bosniaks are not very religious people, so there are few cultural ties with conservative Muslim countries despite common religion.

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