A Direct Flight Sofia-NewYork is Pending
According to the traditional analysis of the Association of Bulgarian Airlines 2013 the local market recorded increase of 4 percent compared to 2012. In the three major airports in Sofia, Varna and Bourgas international and charter flights transported nearly 7 million passengers.
The good news is that for the first time since the economic crisis Bulgarian airlines have a reason to celebrate. In 2013 they were transported 2.002 million passengers, provided that a year earlier they reported only 1.89 million, a growth of 5.8 percent. This gives them a share of 29 percent of the local market or 0.5 percent more than in 2012. This is encouraging considering the fact that from 2008 onwards and they were continually losing positions.
Another reason for optimism is the readiness to open a direct line between Bulgaria and the U.S., which will certainly increase the number of passengers. A carrier is waiting for permission from the U.S. administration for direct flights, and is ready in two to three months to serve regular course three times a week. Part of the approval procedure has already passed, but now the company is waiting for permits related to safety of passengers and cargo. Flights from Bulgarian capital to New York were available up until 1999, when they were operated by the national airline Balkan.
The industry representatives were not optimistic about the opening of destinations to Asia for two reasons - lack of adequate aircraft and lack of overall organization.
However a very serious problem in the near future is to arise. After 2017 Bulgarian airlines may be forced to hire foreign pilots because of the retirement age of many of the local ones. Training of an aviator is worth 40 thousand euros and this amount is not affordable for an average Bulgarian family. The Association of Bulgarian Airlines insists that the state should grant scholarships to cover at least half of this amount.