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Airline strategy, aviation management, small airlines, South-Eastern European (SEE) aviation, Western Balkan aviation, secondary airports
South-Eastern Europe holds a key geopolitical position and has a promising economy and aviation market. Small airlines operating in the region can succeed by taking advantage of the region’s characteristics and selecting appropriate strategies. This study’s objective is to examine the potentials of the region’s small airlines, focusing on their key strategic choices regarding destinations to serve, aircraft types to use, airports to operate from, and whether to operate independently or partner with larger carriers. In-depth interviews were conducted with key aviation experts from across the region, and secondary data were used to provide further insight. The study’s main findings show that small airlines may benefit from initially partnering with larger carriers, feeding their networks from secondary airports via regional jets and turboprops. This study adds to the relevant literature and may help managers from the region’s smaller and bigger airlines and airports identify new opportunities and develop sustainable strategies.