SOF CONNECT meets with Mr Nikolay Sabev
Sofia, 22 February 2022: Sofia Airport’s ambitious regeneration blueprint was the focus of discussions today as Mr Olivier Jankovec, Director General of ACI EUROPE (Airports Council International), and Mr Jesus Caballero, CEO of Sofia Airport management company SOF Connect, met with Mr Nikolay Sabev, Bulgaria’s Minister of Transport and Communications.
The meeting covered a wide range of issues just as the airport industry’s outlook finally starts to improve with business transformation and the development of sustainable air connectivity at the core of forward looking strategies.
2021 was another very difficult year for Europe’s airports as passenger traffic remained -70% below pre-pandemic (2019) levels. While prospects improved over the Summer, with passenger traffic at -44% in Q3, the spread of the Omicron variant stalled the recovery dynamic toward the end of the year.
The easing or even lifting of travel restrictions now under way across Europe and beyond means passenger traffic is expected to rebound over Spring and Summer. This should finally allow airports to see their financial position improve on the back of restored revenue generation capabilities.
Speaking to Minister Sabev, Jankovec was unequivocal about the value and benefits for Bulgaria of the 35 years concession granted to SOF Connect to operate and develop Sofia airport. He commented: «Over the past 20 years, an increasing number of States across Europe have backed from operating and financing airports – turning instead to long-term concessions involving private investors. This model has been extremely successful in modernising all aspects of airport operations and ensuring the timely development of state of the art airport facilities meeting the quality and green standards of the 21st century. This is exactly what is happening here in Sofia, where more than €620 million of investment will transform the airport and finally position it as a key South-Eastern European hub – with significant economic and social benefits for the country. »
He added: « I have just reviewed the many projects now under way – from upgrading the runway and revamping the commercial and retail offering to developing a brand new terminal and reducing carbon emissions – and I certainly commend the SOF Connect team for their vision and their execution so far. »
Jankovec also praised SOF Connect for the way it is supporting the redevelopment of air connectivity, with targeted rebates and incentives on charges paid for the use of the infrastructure benefitting airlines opening new routes to the Bulgarian capital and bringing more traffic. Yet perceived with airport charges amongst the lowest in Europe applied at a capital airport.
Mr. Jankovec also met with the Director General of the Directorate General of Civil Aviation Administration (the Bulgarian civil aviation authority) with whom he discussed the activities of the aviation regulator and the prospects of airport charges; and at a dedicated video meeting the CEOs of global Meridiam airports and the SOF Connect management team shared their plans for the transformation of Sofia Airport.
“After the last two extremely challenging years for aviation, the resilience of the industry is amazing. The pace of the sector’s recovery varies from country to country around the world and Meridiam’s airports, located on 3 continents, are the living example of this, but what unites them is a determination for sustainable growth, understood as care for the environment and benefits for the communities they serve.” said Jesus Caballero – CEO of Sofia Airport and Head of Meridiam’s Airport Network.
ACI EUROPE is the European region of Airports Council International (ACI), the only worldwide professional association of airport operators. ACI EUROPE represents over 500 airports in 55 countries. Our members facilitate over 90% of commercial air traffic in Europe. Air transport supports 13.5 million jobs, generating €886 billion in European economic activity (4.4% of GDP). In response to the Climate Emergency, in June 2019 our members committed to achieving Net Zero carbon emissions for operations under their control by 2050, without offsetting.