In 1952, on the location of today’s airport in Niš, the first concrete runway, measuring 1500 m, was built and served for military purposes. In order to maintain the pace with the development of military jet planes as well as civil planes, in 1972 the length of the runway was extended to 2200 m which made it possible for the contemporary jet planes such as: Caravel and later DC-9, etc. to take off. At that period, JAT was organising seasonal flights to the sea making travelling more enjoyable. Today, we consider this mode of travelling pleasant. Regarding the length and geographical characteristics of the road to the sea, we may only assume the importance of air transport in the period when roads and vehicles, particularly trains, could not measure up to modern transport.
During 1980’s, the local leadership recognised the needs of the citizens living in Niš as well as in this part of the country and took into account the industrial development of the city. They highlighted the attributes that marked the growth of Niš as an industrial, university and regional centre which resulted in serious thinking about building the airport on the grounds of previously existing facilities used by the Army. The association of economic and political entities prepared detailed terms and in 1986 made a decision on establishing the business organization “Airport Niš”.
The planning included the development of professional urban, construction, craft and other projects, selection, construction of facilities, organization of the Company, defining required labour force, reception of the staff, training, verification of the acquired knowledge by other companies that had already dealt with this matter, for the most part by JAT. During 1986, the terminal was built as well as the ancillary support facilities. This project, also, included the asphalt coated runway and built-in system of lights that provided visual descent guidance information during the approach to a runway at night.
Gala opening ceremony was held on 12th October 1986 accompanied by the airfare and the landing of the first aircraft B737. Since then, the airport in Niš has been considered as another air port in Yugoslavia. From that moment on, the competition in traffic has begun and still lasts with greater or lesser intensity. The interesting fact is that the development of air traffic in Niš was not initiated by JAT only, but also by Slovenian company “Inex-Adria Airways”. However, changes on the political scene in Yugoslavia and deteriorated relations among the republics in 1990, brought to the sharp decrease in travelling to the Adriatic Sea, Ljubljana and Zagreb, once the most attractive flights from Niš. At the end of this initial period, with a drastic decrease in traffic due to the crisis in the country, the business organization “Airport Niš”, according to the decision of its founders, the Municipality of Niš, was transformed into an independent Social Enterprise and gave in to the market.
Under the circumstances when the volume of traffic reached its lowest point (the only form of traffic were flights to Tivat during summer) and the Company reaching a complete independence, basic conditions for building the Cargo-Customs terminal in Niš were satisfied as well as the conditions for the business activity of the Travel Agency as well as trade. Performing those alternative jobs, the Company survived financial sanctions (as a result of the impact of real market conditions, without any financial support). Owing to the hard-working employees, the airport managed to preserve the same quality of original business activities – to run the airport services.
During the 90’s, the Company significantly improved its personnel structure. It also initiated the positioning of Airport Niš in the field of air traffic in Yugoslavia at that moment. In the period of decreased volume of traffic, thanks to good weather conditions, the Airport came into more frequent use as an alternative solution.
In 1998, the traffic volume increased owing to the heavy air traffic at the airport in Priština which was out of use because of numerous foggy days during which the traffic was successfully carried out from Niš.
However, the following year, 1999, was marked by NATO bombarding and heavy damages. Almost hopeless situation after reaching the truce enabled only the lowest level of business operation. Nevertheless, the analysis and plans for the radical changes were made and the enthusiasm which carried us through the hard period of the 90’s brought us to the situation when, in 2000, we carried out the damage analysis as well as evaluation of potential value of repair works. This made it possible for us to be among the first with a ready made project for reconstruction and investment. The Norwegian representatives spot the potential and importance of the object and due to their donation, the Airport was reopened. Owing to those financial funds, since December 2002 until 12th October 2003, in cooperation with the Yugoslav Army, the disposal of remaining inactivated cluster bombs was carried out in the runway area; manoeuvre surfaces were coated with asphalt; the flight control tower was built; and the part of airport equipment was renewed.
Airport Niš was reopened on 12th October 2003. During 2004, “JAT Airways” and “Montenegro Airlines” organised flights from Niš to Zurich, Paris, and Tivat. In the period from 2004 until 2007, the number of passengers who arrived and departed Airport Niš was constantly growing, which was in accordance with the rate of development defined by the Business Plan of Airport 2004-2008.
Due to the circumstances caused by the breaking away of Montenegro as well as the general politics carried out by Serbian authority in the area of air traffic (during 2006 and 2007), the number of passengers decreased in 2007 and the annual rate was reduced for 14% compared to the previous year. This had a great impact on the total economic situation in the Company. Preparing the set of measures which would unite the resources of the city of Niš and the rest of Serbia to enable normal development, during 2007 the following has been realized: the long term Business Plan (2007-2022) was made; the Company was transformed into the joint-stock company since it was concluded to be the most optimal form of doing business for the future engagement of the investors in the development of the complex; the project for investing in the support facilities at the Airport was prepared.
The facilities will be in accordance with the main business activity and they will facilitate the development of the main business activity; the Project of system of lights KAT 1 was finalised (in Niš, the equipment was built in; the landing procedure which is active requires minimal visibility in the range of 2000 m for common civil aircrafts).
The Airport prepared several projects based on the financial support of the international development programme as well as from “preliminary” funds of the European Union.