The growing number of budget airlines in the CEE region involves expanding existing airports and constructing new ones. In 2014, there were more than 50 commercial airports in the whole region serving more than 100,000 passengers per annum. Altogether they handled over 109 million passengers – 7.5 per cent more than in the previous year. Particularly high growth rates were achieved in the Balkan countries, with Belgrade and Chisinau airports seeing an increase of more than 30 per cent.
In the light of the constantly growing traffic, local authorities are conducting numerous investments in infrastructure. In Poland, construction works are continued at Szymany Airport in Warmia and Mazury, which is scheduled to be opened in 2016. Total value of investment is estimated at €49 million. As a result of its expansion in the mid of 2015, Kraków Airport will increase its capacity to 8 million passengers per year. In February 2015, the management of Chopin Airport in Warsaw signed the agreement for financing €145 million investment in expanding its passengers terminal and adding more infrastructure.
In Estonia, Tallin airport is planning upgrades and construction, while Slovenia’s Ljubljana Airport has adopted its ‘Aeropolis’ business plan for investments in buildings and equipment at a total cost of approx. €114.4 million. Latvia is developing infrastructure at Riga Airport through three projects in a PPP at an estimated total cost of €140 million. Croatia’s Zagreb airport is upgrading and expanding in a public-private partnership worth €331 million. Serbia’s Nikola Tesla Airport is in the second of four stages of expansion worth nearly €53 million, while Montenegrin airports’ operator is planning to invest €40 million to upgrade Tivat airport.
In terms of specialisation benchmarks, the Czech Republic is a leader among other CEE countries in availability of R&D, even exceeding Germany in terms of specialisation, while the Financial Times ranked it third in aviation worldwide, as it steadily develops its aerospace industry across clusters. Poland – ranking 6th – boasts the Aviation Valley industrial cluster featuring scientific research centres and educational and training facilities.