The opening of the “Flatrat e Veriut” “The North Wings” airport was trumpeted as enabling the employment of about 12,000 people in Kukës, the poorest district of Albania. But two years after the first flight from this airport, verifications show that employment is negligible compared to the propaganda figure articulated by the government. 77 people are employed at ZAYED airport, while the area is experiencing rapid depopulation due to emigration for a better life.
“…the number of employees who will be hired is expected to reach about 12 thousand people in the final phase of the realization of this project,” declared the Minister of Infrastructure and Energy Belinda Balluku in March 2019, after the government had approved the decision for the new International Airport of Kukes .
This airport officially started flights in April 2021 and in these two years of activity, it has managed to employ a total of 77 people and not about 12 thousand as Minister Balluku claimed.
In the balance sheets submitted to the National Business Center , it appears that the number of employees at Kukes airport is far from the Albanian government’s expectations. Referring to the data from the concession company itself, at the end of 2019 only 4 people were employed, in 2020 the employment increased by only three employees, and at the end of 2021 there were a total of 69 people employed.
The number of employees at Kukes Airport
2019 4 people
2020 7 people
2021 69 people
2022 77 people
The number of jobs promised in 2019 seems exaggerated and propagandistic. Even Mother Teresa International Airport in Tirana did not exceed 830 people, according to official figures.
Flights are also in very small numbers
From the opening until January 2022, only Air Albania operated at ZAYED Airport. A month later, the first plane of the WizzAir company joined the international airport “Flatrat e Veriut” on the runway. But this summer, the low-cost company Wizz Air announced the suspension of operations from the “Flatrat e Veriut”.
“Wizz Air confirms that after careful consideration and analysis, we have decided to SUSPEND operations to/from Kukes International Airport (KFZ) as a result of challenges presented by the external environment, in particular terrain and weather, affecting the operational performance of our business and lead to customer interruptions,” the company confirmed to Faktoje at the end of July.
With the departure of Wizz Air, Kukës is left with only ‘Air Albania’ as an operating company, which currently only offers the Kukës-Basel line.
Kukes continues to be depopulated
The construction of the airport was promoted as a golden opportunity for the development of the country’s poorest district, Kukes. But statistics show that the construction of the aeroport did not give the expected effect, not even the most minimal. Kukësi continues to be the district with the highest level of poverty in Albania, while in recent years it is suffering from rapid depopulation. This is illustrated by INSTAT data that show a sharp decline in the number of the population during the last decade.
At the beginning of this year, Kukësi counted 71 thousand inhabitants from 86 thousand in 2013. The locals say that currently there are far fewer people in Kukës than the official figures say. This is due to the massive wave of emigration mainly to the United Kingdom.
Based on the verification and data collected by Faktoje, we decided to categorize Minister Balluku’s statement regarding the employment figures at Kukes airport as False.