Kukës, Albania – | 19 April 2021 (Tirana Echo) – Albania has opened its second international airport at the north-eastern town of Kukës, following an 11-year delay since its initial inauguration in 2010.
The “Zayed – Northern Wings” international airport at Kukës, received its first Air Albania passenger flight from London, which had initially landed in the capital Tirana to pick up the country’s prime minister Edi Rama before making the final landing at Kukës.
According to PM Rama, the airport, which has one runway and three parking spots for airplanes, will serve as a low-cost hub for Albania with a forecast of 300,000 passengers expected to travel through it annually.
The airport was initially built as a landing site for humanitarian cargos, following the sheltering in the area of hundreds of thousands of ethnic Albanian refugees fleeing the Kosovo war with Serbia in 1999.
Given its geographic position 150km from capital Tirana and vicinity to the border with Kosovo and North Macedonia, the government of Albania hopes the site will boost tourism and commercial exchanges with a traditionally poor northeastern region of the small Balkan country.
The Kukës Airport’s name is Zayed, in honor of Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan who was the ruler of Abu Dhabi for more than 30 years and founding father of the United Arab Emirates.
Sheikh Zayed funded the construction of the Kukës Airport in 1999 to help with relief aid towards the refugees and victims of the Kosovo conflict which ended after a 78-day NATO led air campaign against Serbian troops.
Photos from the Kosovo war period cover the inner walls of the airport.
The Zayed Airport in Kukës has cost a total of $28.7m USD and will serve as Albania’s second airport welcoming domestic and international flights on top of the country’s main international airport in Tirana.
The town of Kukës is conveniently located on the outskirts of a major highway connecting Albania’s capital Tirana with Kosovo’s capital Prishtina, which in turn connects through another highway to North Macedonia’s capital Skopje.
The authorities expect low-cost flights from northern Europe in the area starting in May, most notably from the UK, given the high number of Albanian emigrants from this area.
Albanian travelers hope the competition generated by this second airport will provide more competitive prices in a highly priced air market, as Tirana tops the list of most expensive airports in the region.
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