September 28, 2018 / 1:59 PM / 19 days ago

New Albania airline cleared for take-off by regulator

TIRANA, Sept 28 (Reuters) - Air Albania, the Balkan country’s new flag carrier, was cleared on Friday to start flights to Istanbul and later Italy and London by the country’s Competition Authority.

Turkish Airlines, which already operates flights between Tirana and Istanbul, owns 49 percent of Air Albania, which was set up this month, with locally-owned MDN Investment controlling 41 percent and state-owned Albcontrol 10 percent.

Previous attempts to operate a flag carrier in Albania have failed, but now Prime Minister Edi Rama said it had became possible thanks to the “generous support” of Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdogan.

“The new company is expected to positively influence competition in the air transport market with competing prices and quality of service,” the Authority said in statement.

The airline - operating one of three planes named after Albanian poets - is conducting test and staff training flights to Istanbul ahead of regular ones in October, but it has yet to release a schedule of flights.

The competition authority ruling also showed MDN Investment Shpk (Limited) will be operating a new international airport planned near the Adriatic port town of Vlore.

Three Turkish construction businesses who have offered to build it are still negotiating with the government, which sees the new airport as a way to lower high ticket prices.

Albanians pay the most expensive tickets in the Balkans and experts say that is due to high airport fees at the single airport of Rinas, called Mother Teresa, near Tirana.

Travel agencies avoid it by taking clients to neighbouring Kosovo or Macedonia when they travel to European destinations. (Reporting by Benet Koleka, Editing by Alexander Smith)

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