Possible merger of Vienna and Bratislava airports

Vienna's International Airport is hoping to buy Bratislava airport - just 60 kilometres or so to the East in Slovakia. Slovak politicians are divided over the proposal and some analysts say it's bad idea for airline passengers as well. So why is Vienna's airport interested in buying Bratislava's airport?

Welcome to Bratislava International Airport! Though the departure hall still preserves the atmosphere of socialism in its architecture, and lack of glamorous duty free shops, business at the airport has taken off in recent years according to its Marketing director, Ivana Paulinyova.

"Right now we have about 450,000 passengers, which means approximately 24 percent increase in comparison with the last year. Four or five years ago we had maybe 200,000 so it's really a change"

This increased traffic is largely due to the arrival of low cost airlines, which are offering more and more destinations - and hasn't gone unnoticed by Vienna's International Airport. Vienna's airport is one of the most expensive and overcrowded in Europe and being located less than 50 kms from Bratislava, is not very happy to see its passengers lured to neighbouring Slovakia and its cheap flights. So when the Slovak government announced that Bratislava airport was looking for a strategic investor, Vienna quickly offered its cooperation. Herbert Kaufmann is the spokesman for the managing board at Vienna airport.

"There are different forms of cooperation. It must be negotiated. But the simplest from of negotiations is to become shareholder in Bratislava airport and establish a cooperation that will establish a win-win situation for Bratislava as well for Vienna because both are very fast growing airports"

The news hasn't been quite welcomed by ordinary Slovaks.

PERSON 1: "I think it's not good idea to sell our airport to Vienna because Bratislava will become just a training centre and will have less flights"

PERSON 2: "Schwechat takes a lot of international flights and Bratislava will loose money"

PERSON 3: "I think it is a good idea because there will be money to develop this airport."

Many, Slovaks fear that Vienna will either try to push Bratislava airport out of the market, or transform it in a cargo terminal. Herbert Kaufmann dismisses this idea.

"That's not true because even Vienna has only a few cargo only flights, the most cargo is transported by passenger airplanes and therefore it's not possible to move cargo transport to Bratislava. We invested a lot of money in our cargo facilities in the last years so it's not our intention that Bratislava becomes the cargo airport and Vienna the passenger airport"

Some analysts fear that with expensive Vienna as strategic partner, the low cost Bratislava airport will be forced to increase its fares too. The Slovak government has received two other cooperation proposals form an American and an Argentinean airport and will have to select the strategic investor by 2005.