Balakovo United Air Detachment is reformed in 1996. Under the leadership of Commander Vlacheslav M. Korev, the carrier continues to provide regional scheduled and charter passenger services. The fleet in 1999 includes 54 Antonov An-2s and 3 An-24s.
BALAKOVO UNITED AIR DETACHMENT (BALAKOVSKY OAO): Russia (1994-1996). Established at Balakovo Airport in the Saratov Region in 1994 to offer regional passenger and cargo charters, General Director Vlacheslav M. Khorev’s BUAD undertakes revenue flights with an undisclosed number of Antonov An-24s, An-26s, An-32s, and Yakovlev Yak-40s.
Flights cease early in 1996 as the concern is reformed into Balakovo Air Enterprise.
BALBOA AIRLINES (AEROVIAS INTERNACIONAL BALBOA, S. A.): Panama (1960-1971). Balboa is established at Panama City in 1962 from the assets of Aerovias Transcribe, S. A. Revenue operations are inaugurated, and continued, with one each Curtiss C-46 Commando and one civil B-26 bomber. All-cargo flights are made throughout Central and South America and to Miami during the remainder of the decade, during which years the fleet is increased by the addition of one each Commando and Douglas DC-4. Flights cease in 1971.
BALI AIR (BALI INTERNATIONAL AIR SERVICE): Jalan Angkasa 1-3, P. O. Box 2965, Jakarta, 10720, Indonesia; Phone 62 (21) 628 8815; Fax 62 (21) 624 9183; Code BL; Year Founded 1973.
Initially known as Nusantara Air Service, this company is purchased by Aviation Developments Operations, Ltd., a subsidiary of Porodisa Industrial Group, Ltd., in 1973 to continue its smallplane charter services from Denpaser, the nation’s tourist capital. The company operates as a sister of Bouraq Indonesia Airlines and its president, J. A. “Gerry” Sumendap serves it in the same post. Later in the year, the operator is purchsed outright by Bouraq and is renamed.
Nusantara Air Service is reformed in January 1974 and renamed Bali International Air Service. The Twin Otter is withdrawn and replaced with 5 Britten-Norman BN-2 Islanders. Flights around the Nusantara archipelago continue in 1975 and, beginning in February 1976, the company, by now known as Bali Air, starts to take delivery of 5 BN-2A Trislanders.
Two Cessna 404 Titans are received in May 1977, but both are lost in accidents before the end of the year.
President Sumendap’s fleet in 1978 comprises 1 Fokker F.27, 5 Britten-Norman BN-2 Islanders, and 5 BN-2A Trislanders.
During the next 15 years, Sumendap’s airline flies nonscheduled and charter operations (both passenger and cargo) throughout the nation’s islands. The fleet is upgraded during the early 1980s by the addition of several DC-3s and Cessna 404s. The first of 3 IPTN-CASA C-212-200 Aviocars is delivered in 1981 and christened Frangewan Sola.
Most of these are withdrawn at the end of the decade and in 1993 the fleet is comprised of 1 British Aerospace (HS) BAe 748-B2, 2 Islanders, and 4 Trislanders. The BAe is retired in 1994.
Despite the national economic and political upheaval, flights continue in 1995-1997.
With the rupiah now valued at 17,000 to the U. S. dollar, the nation’s airlines are, in May 1998, granted permission to increase fares by 37.5%.
By the beginning of August, a cost-cutting plan that would have combined the domestic operations of Garuda, Bouraq, Merpati, and Mandala collapses; despite load factors as low as 30%, the smaller airlines refuse to join with the flag carrier.
The effects of the Asian currency crisis and the national economic downturn continue; at this point, the four companies are losing significant funds, as 80% of their costs are in U. S. dollars, but only 20% of their income is in the same currency.
During the last week of August, the Indonesian parliament does grant a long-desired fare increase. Domestic tickets increase in price by 40% on September 1; they rise again another 14% on December 1.
Flights continue in 1999. During the first six months of the year, the rupiah regains some 50% of its strength. The balance of the parliamentary-approved fare increase is postponed.
BALKAN BULGARIAN AIRLINES (TABSO): Sofia Airport, Sofia, 1540, Bulgaria; Phone 359 (2) 881800; Fax 359 (2) 791206; Http://www. balkan. com; Code LZ; Year Founded 1947. In the spring of 1947, the Bulgarian government forms the carrier Bulgarske Vaz-dushne Sobstenie (BVS) to provide service between the country’s major cities. Employing Soviet-made Lisunov Li-2s (Russian license-built Douglas DC-3s) and former Luftwaffe Junkers Ju-52/3ms, services are started over domestic routes on June 29.
On the very next day, while en route from Varna to Sofia, a Ju-52/3m with 21 passengers is taken over by 6 armed pirates. The pilot is killed and 2 other crew members are shot and wounded before the former German Air Force transport makes a safe emergency landing at Istanbul.
In September 12, 1949, the airline is taken over by a new fifty-fifty partnership, the Bulgarian-Soviet Joint Stock Company for Civil Aviation (TABSO). Services over domestic routes are maintained by an additional number of Soviet-supplied Li-2s.
Operations continue apace during 1950-1953 and Ilyushin Il-14s arrive to open international services from Budapest to Paris, Frankfurt, and Moscow. There are occasional operational problems and, on December 6, 1952 an Li-2, with 18 aboard crashes into an uninhabited area between Sofia and Varna.
In 1954, the Soviet interest is withdrawn and TABSO becomes a wholly owned Bulgarian government enterprise.
Service remains domestic; however, the carrier also assumes responsibility for agricultural aviation. In 1955-1961, an 8-point domestic network is developed as new services are initiated to the capitals of other Warsaw Pact nations.
The first Ilyushin Il-18 enters service on May 5, 1962 on a Sofia-Moscow route and on September 24 one crashes near Bratislava, Czechoslovakia (82 dead). Operations continue with little change in 1963-1965, although the number of holiday charters to the Black Sea holiday areas is increased.
The first Antonov An-24 enters service in early 1966. A female pilot inaugurates the company’s new Sofia to Casablanca via Tunis service on November 17.
While en route from Sofia to Prague, an Il-18B with 8 crew and 74 passengers crashes near Bratislava on November 24; there are no survivors.
The name “TABSO” is shelved in 1968 in favor of Balkan Bulgarian Airlines. A Convair CV-990A Coronado is leased from Lebanese International Airways, S. A.L. between June 1 and December 1.
On September 3, an Il-18D with 7 crew and 82 passengers en route from Dresden to Burgas, crashes in bad weather near Karnobat (47 dead).
The carrier’s first jetliner, a Tupolev Tu-134, is placed in service, as is an An-12B. Hardly has the Coronado returned to Beirut when it is destroyed in an Israeli commando raid on December 28.
During the next decade, services are launched to some 18 domestic destinations and 44 additional cities in Europe, Asia, and Africa with a fleet that comprises 6 Ilyushin Il-18s, 1 Antonov An-12B, 10 Tu-154/154A/154B, 11 Tu-134/134A, 8 An-24Bs, 5 Yakovlev Yak-40s, and 3 Mil-8 helicopters. Equipped with An-12s and Il-18s, the charter subsidiary Bulair is formed and based in Sofia. Six major air disasters and a hijacking are reported during these years.
On final approach to Zurich on a January 18, 1971 service from Paris, an Il-18D with 8 crew and 39 passengers dips below its glide path and crashes (45 dead).
A Bulair Il-18 charter, with 11 crew and 62 passengers en route to Algeria, crashes shortly after takeoff from Sofia on December 21 (28 dead).
Having diverted from Sofia because of fog during a service from Burgas on November 4, 1972, an Il-14P with 4 crew and 31 passengers crashes in the Rila Mountains while on initial approach to the airport at Plovdiv; there are no survivors.
During its second approach to Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport on March 3 following a scheduled service from Sofia, Flight 307, an Il-18V with 8 crew and 17 passengers, slips below its glide path and crashes; there are no survivors.
Service is normal and there are only two accidents or incidents in 1974-1976.
En route from Varna to Sofia on June 28, 1975, an An-24 is hijacked by a lone gunman, who forces the aircraft to divert to Thessaloniki, Greece. There the pirate obtains political asylum.
An An-24B with 3 crew and 42 passengers crashes just after takeoff from Sofia for a service to Varna on November 22 (3 dead). In 1976, an Il-18D is received from LOT Polish Airlines.
Tsankov Dimitrov, a 22-year-old auto mechanic, hijacks an An-24B with 49 aboard during a domestic flight from Vidin to Sofia on June 18, 1977, and forces it to fly to Belgrade, where he is overwhelmed by police and arrested.
On December 2, a Tu-154A with 6 crew and 159 passengers is unable to land at the foggy airport in Benghasi and attempts to find an alternative airport. Unsuccessful and out of fuel, the crew carries out a forced landing (59 dead).
Just after takeoff from Sofia on January 16, 1978, a Tu-134A with 73 aboard crashes; all of the passengers and crew are killed, including Polish Deputy Culture Minister Janusz Wilhelmi and film industry officials Halina Micikowska and Jerzy Tabor.
En route from Sofia to Warsaw on March 16, a Tu-134A with 7 crew and 66 passengers crashes near Gabare, Bulgaria; there are no survivors.
A Tu-154A with four crew crashes near Damascus, Syria, on March 23; there are no survivors.
Service continues steadily during the remainder of the decade and into the 1980s.
The company’s first marketing alliance with a Western European airline is signed with Iberia Spanish Airlines (2) (Lineas Areas de Es-pana, S. A.) in April 1982; it provides for code-sharing on flights between Sofia and Madrid.
On October 14 a married couple seizes a Tu-134 flying between Burgas and Warsaw and orders it diverted to Vienna. There the couple is taken in hand by police, tried, and sentenced. The husband receives two years in jail while the wife receives a suspended sentence.
En route from Sofia to Varna on the night of March 7, 1983, an An-24 is captured by four armed terrorists demanding to be flown to Turkey. In the dark, the pilot lands at his scheduled destination, where police, alerted in advance, kill one pirate and capture the other three.
While on final approach to Sofia on a January 10, 1984 service from Berlin’s Schoenfeld Airport, a Tu-134A with 5 crew and 45 passengers strikes a power line during a snowstorm and crashes into a forest, 4 km. short of the runway; there are no survivors.
An Il-18D freighter with 6 crew and 12 passengers is destroyed as the result of a bad landing at Sana’a, Yemen, on June 16; there are no fatalities.
An An-12V freighter with seven crew and two passengers is lost as the result of a bad landing at Addis Ababa on August 24; there are no fatalities.
By 1985, the state airline is operating an 8-point domestic network and providing international services to 44 cities in Asia, Africa, and Europe.
Unheralded service continues in 1986 and, in 1987, the company adopts a new corporate image, including logo and color scheme. It is applied to an An-12B received from the Soviet Air Force in May, as well as to a variety of other aircraft.
An An-24 with 4 crew and 33 passengers crashes just after takeoff from Sofia on August 2, 1988 (23 dead). Later in the month, the airline joins IATA.
The fleet in 1989 includes 5 An-12Bs, 8 An-24RVs, 3 Il-18Ds, 5 Il-18Vs, 5 Tu-134s, 8 Tu-134As, 3 Tu-134A-3s, 9 Tu-154Bs, 2 Tu-154B-1s (1 leased from Aeroflot Soviet Airlines), 6 Tu-154B-2s, 5 Tu-154Ms, and 11 Yak 40s.
Significant fleet alteration begins in 1990. Removed are 2 An-12Bs, 1 Il-18D, 3 Il-18Vs, 5 Tu-134s, 1 Tu-134A, 1 Tu-154B-2, and 2 Yak-40s. Nine of 11 Mil Mi-8 helicopters are withdrawn and passed to Heli Air Services. Added are 7 An-24RVs and 3 Tu-154Ms. Requests are made to Japan’s Orix Aviation Systems, Ltd. for the charter of 4 Airbus narrow-bodies.
After removing its non-airline duties and subsidiaries, BBA, now under a new managing director, Kostadin Botev, becomes an autonomous unit within the Bulgarian Civil Aviation Corporation. Services are maintained to 55 cities in Africa, Asia, and Europe.
Enplanements total 1,074,667 and revenues are $220 million; a net $11.2-million gain is reported.
In 1991, 8 Yak-40s are retired. One of 4 Airbus Industrie A320-231s is delivered. A Boeing 767-27EER is leased from Air France while 3 B-737-53As are chartered from Ansett Worldwide, the Australian leasing firm. In January, the restructuring announced the previous year takes effect. BBA is the only airline able to fly from Lagos and Harare in Africa.
Unhappily, recession and political upheaval causes passenger boardings to plunge 66.1% to 647,000. Freight, however, rises 25.8% to 5.92 million FTKs. Revenues total $170 million and there is a $1.9-million loss.
The last 3 A320-231s arrive in 1992 along with another Air France B-767-27EER. During the spring, a Yak 40 is leased to the new Nigerian operator Bellview Airlines, Ltd.
A chartered Tu-154A with 3 crew and 127 passengers overruns the runway after landing at Varna on June 5; although the aircraft is damaged beyond repair when its landing gear collapses, there are no fatalities.
On July 28, an An-24V is struck by a crane while being positioned on the ramp at Sofia Airport; no injuries are reported. Two An-24Vs, including the damaged unit, are later withdrawn. In December, the government’s Privatization Agency (PA) officially authorizes airline executives to seek investors in the event the airline is privatized. Twice-weekly B-767-27EER roundtrips simultaneously commence to New York and once weekly to Taipei.
In January 1993, Managing Director Botev oversees a workforce of 4,053. Two Tu-154B-2s are leased to Palair Macedonia and, in March, a block-space agreement is initiated with LOT Polish Airlines, S. A. covering service from Sofia to Warsaw. In April, the B-767-27EERs are placed on the long-haul routes to Bangkok, Male, Kuala Lumpur, and Jakarta.
In addition to those stops and a three-point domestic network, the company undertakes regularly scheduled international flights to Abu Dhabi, Accra, Algiers, Amsterdam, Athens, Bahrain, Barcelona, Beirut, Berlin, Brussels, Budapest, Cairo, Calcutta, Casablanca, Colombo, Copenhagen, Damascus, Doha, Dubai, Frankfurt, Harare, Helsinki, Istanbul, Johannesburg, Khartoum, Kuwait, Lagos, Larnaca, London, Madrid, Malta, Milan, Moscow, Munich, Muscat, Nairobi, New York, Paris, Prague, Rome, Stockholm, Tel Aviv, Tunis, Vienna, Warsaw, and Zurich. Toronto joins the route network late in the year, along with St. Petersburg, Kiev, Manchester and Lisbon.
With financial support from the British government’s Know How Fund, a plan is put forward and approved to sell 11% shareholding to company employees and 49% to foreign investors; the government will retain 40%. At the same time, the carrier drops all of its non-airline activities, becoming an autonomous unit under the Bulgarian Civil Aviation Corporation.
Enplanements this year total 672,917.
Operations continue apace in 1994 to a total of 52 destinations in Europe, Africa, Asia, and North America, plus three domestic locations. Western units in the previously Soviet-made fleet include 4 leased A320-321s, 3 chartered B-737-53As, and 2 leased B-767-27EERs, the latter from Air France.
Joint services begin in March from Sofia to Istanbul in cooperation with THY (Turkish Airlines, A. O.). The previous year’s privatization plan fails when a foreign buyer cannot be found. Meanwhile, most of the carrier’s charter services are cancelled on short notice to tour companies, including the old partner Balkan Holidays. The move will leave the airline without a charter program for three years.
Managing Director Botev voluntarily steps aside in late November to allow the efforts at privatization to continue under new management. Valeri Doganov is appointed his successor.
Passenger boardings decline 14.3% on the year to 785,200, although freight is up by 13.8% to 364 million FTKs. Revenues for the year are $203.91 million, while expenses are $215.19 million. Still, there is an operating loss of $11.27 million and a net downturn of $20.14 million. It is reported that, since 1991, the carrier has lost $20 million per year.
Early in January 1995, the Austrian-Swiss company Avicon offers to take a 49% stake in exchange for its know-how and services. The government rejects the tender as unreasonable, knowing that it will neither bring in budget revenue nor contribute to a fast financial stabilization of the floundering operation. The entire privatization process, begun in 1992, is ended by the government during the last week of the month. Citing a lack of proper investors, Managing Director Doganov indicates that the company must first be restructured.
A stabilization program is presented to the Ministry of Transport early in the spring and wins approval; under its terms, the company will be required to purchase eight new aircraft over the next four years. It will also receive a long-term government loan and some international routes will be temporarily suspended. In May, the government’s former deputy minister of industry, Nikola Dotsov, is appointed chief executive, succeeding Managing Director Doganov.
Under terms of an agreement between the government and the government of the Russian Republic, the latter will repay in goods $100 million owed to Bulgaria. As part of the arrangement, 5 new Tu-154Ms will join 7 others of that type in the fleet of Balkan flag carrier and replace all 12 of its Tu-154Bs.
During late summer, a government commission begins an examination of the carrier’s expensive foreign aircraft leases.
In early November, Air Malta, Ltd. begins to cooperate with Balkan on a weekly service from Sofia to New York (JFK) via Malta. On November 11, the Bulgarian government approves a $20-million bailout plan to save the continuously troubled airline. It also agrees to approve up to $45 million from the State Fund for Reconstruction and Development.
During the year, customer bookings fall another 15.8% to 1,271,400 while cargo dips 1.7% to 44.97 million FTKs.
Many of the company’s unprofitable international routes are discontinued in 1996; however, several Yak-42s and Il-114s are acquired for regional services.
Due to its continuing heavy losses and requirements from the International Monetary Fund, the airline in June is included in a list of state-owned companies to be isolated from further bank loans and that are required to carry out restructuring programs before their future fate is decided.
The U. K. consultants KPMG assist the Ministries of Transport and of Finance in preparing a draft recovery plan for the airline. Unprofitable routes are dropped with the start of the winter schedule in October; service is discontinued to Stockholm, Brussels, Helsinki, and Harare in Western Europe and Africa.
Additionally, six hotels and restaurants in the Black Sea resorts of Zlatni Pyasatsi and Slanchev Bryag are sold and permission is received to sell up to 75% of the airline’s debt-ridden Palma oil refinery.
Still, reports put the year’s loss at $50 million.
Bulgarian Finance Minister Dimitar Kostov appoints a new seven-member board for the airline in January 1997. The board, led by the new president, Valeri Doganov, will make adjustments to the KPMG-submitted recovery plan. When submitted at month’s end, it leads, in February, to a rescheduling of debt payments and downsizing of staff. The Pliska Hotel in Sofia and the Cosmos in Bourgas, on the Black Sea, are added to the list of resorts sold, reportedly for $2 million.
Finishing touches are completed during the first quarter on efforts, begun the previous year, to win back domestic and tour operators. A new program of charter flights begins at the end of March.
On April 7, Managing Director Doganov tells a news conference that debt restructuring will be the airline’s first step towards privatization. Accomplishment of that goal will make the carrier more attractive to potential investors.
In April, code-sharing flights begin with Olympic Airways, S. A. over a route from Sofia to Athens. The airline continues to suffer from poor traffic and financial downturn. On April 25, the company enters into discussions with Bayerische Vereinsbank on the consolidation of its foreign debt in preparation for privatization. Bayerische Vereinsbank holds a 51% stake in a joint banking institution, Bayerische Bulgarische Han-delsbank, set up in 1995 with state-owned Bulbank.
In June, 3 A320-231s must be returned to Japan and their routes taken over by old Soviet-made equipment. There is also concern over whether leases on the French B-767-27EERs can be paid.
It is reported on July 1 that the airline is seeking an equity partner from among financial institutions rather than airlines. Representatives from Airbus, Boeing, and Tupolev arrive in Sofia during the first half of the month to submit their offers for renewal of the carrier’s fleet. All have been informed that financing will play as large a part in aircraft choice as technology.
The Association of European Airlines learns at year’s end that the company has flown a total of 667.2 million RPKs during the year, a 6% decline. Enplanements are approximately 500,000.
Plans for full privatization push ahead in 1998. The government announces the sale of 100% of the indebted airline, with 20% to be offered to its staff at a preferential price.
The privatization consultants Treuhand Osteuropa Beratungsge-sellschaft, mbH. (TOB) and the British Airways, Ltd. (2) affiliate Speedwing, Ltd. are retained to assist in the government’s efforts. In April, 10 firms and consortiums send letters of intent seeking to participate in the airline’s privatization. In May, five bidders are invited to make concrete proposals.
By July 13, three potential investors have deposited their bids to purchase a stake and these are closely studied with an aim of completing an arrangement by the end of August.
Reuters, Ltd. reports on September 2 that the carrier will return one B-767-27EER to Air France at the end of January and the other in March as their leases expire. Negotiations have opened with Airbus Industrie for the charter of 2 A300-600Rs. At the same time, it is noted that the company’s agents have not yet selected a buyer, but should by month’s end.
The French wide-bodies are, however, employed to initiate long-haul flights to Beijing, New Delhi, and Riyadh in October.
During the month, members of the airline’s management, together with local financiers, establish a homegrown holding company, Balkan Air, to bid on the airline. Finding itself somewhat short of cash, the investor group allows an unnamed U. S. institutional investor to purchase a 75% stake. Ivan Sokolov is appointed the group’s CEO.
With its organization and backing sorted out, Balkan Air approaches the government and makes a $450-million offer to takeover the government’s stake in Balkan Bulgarian. As negotiations continue, the government insists that Balkan Air also include guarantees concerning job security, company debt, and investment procedures. These points are agreed to and CEO Sokolov further indicates that, if the arrangement is successful, the airline will undergo a significant reshuffle, with a large fleet renewal program added and unprofitable routes and units spun off or dropped.
Having examined the package, the airline’s advisors indicate that it is in order and await a government decision.
The British Broadcasting Corporation reports on October 24 that a group of nine illegal immigrants from Nigeria, involved in riots on Cyprus the previous evening, have been refused passage by Balkan, the airline assigned to deport them to Lagos via Bulgaria. The pilot of the Balkan aircraft refuses to allow them aboard because they are unaccompanied by security personnel and he refuses to let them sit with other passengers unattended.
It is announced on October 28 that, in order to secure more positive financial guarantees, the procedure for partial privatization had been cancelled the previous day. The government will launch a new procedure for submitting offers for a 75% stake because some conditions listed in the initial invitation have been “insufficiently clear.” The mediation services of TOB and Speedwing are dropped as the government moves to handle the process directly.
On November 1, it is triumphantly announced that the company has earned a third-quarter profit of 12 billion levs (US$1=1,664 levs).
While Balkan continues to operate, the entire privatization process is back at square one.
At a joint meeting of the Finance Ministry and the Transport Ministry on December 18, it is decided to open negotiations with Airbus and Boeing for the acquisition of two Next Generation aircraft in 1999 under a lease-purchase arrangement. Planning remains for the return of two Air France wide-bodies during the upcoming first quarter.
Passenger boardings during the 12 months increase by 14.7% to
828,000. Cargo traffic, on the other hand, slides 3.7% to 19.55 million FTKs. It will be reported the following May that, for the year, Balkan has been able to slash its losses to 9.4 billion levs ($5.1 million). Balkan’s long-term assets are valued at $133 million, including offices abroad and other foreign holdings.
Following the return of the first Air France B-767-27EER at the end of January 1999, the company long-haul schedule begins to feel an impact.
At the beginning of March, the government opens a new procedure for the sale of a 75% stake in the carrier and establishes April 26 as the deadline for the submission of bids from interested parties.
At the same time, the second French wide-body is returned, creating a serious disruption. In their absence, smaller Balkan jetliners must be taken off their regular routes and employed for long-distance flights. Consequently, a number of passengers are stranded for up to 30 hours, waiting for their departures. Plans are made to replace other aircraft by May 10.
On March 16, Finance Minister Muravei Radev, indicates that Balkan has been authorized to enter into a long-term lease for a pair of Airbus Industrie A310s. It is also noted that 3 renovated Tupolev Tu-154Ms will be chartered from the Vnukovo aviation concern in Russia to service 30 monthly flights during the upcoming summer tourist season.
Having proven unable to change the policy of the Belgrade government toward the ethnic Albanians in Kosovo province, NATO, on March 24, closes the airspace over the federal republic of Yugoslavia (Serbia and Macedonia) plus Croatia, Bosnia, and Albania and launches the bombing campaign, Operation Allied Force. Balkan is prohibited from flying into those nations and, like other European airlines, finds itself confronted with cancellations and delays on services throughout southeastern Europe.
Efforts to improve the airline’s bottom line are seen at the end of the first quarter. The loss since January is down to 5.5 billion levs ($3 million) from 18 billion levs during the same period in 1998.
As aircraft from the NATO nations continue to pound Yugoslavian targets, hundreds of thousands of Kosovo refugees cross borders into Albania and Macedonia. As aid workers struggle to provide relief, several governments step forward to provide sanctuary for some of the displaced persons. Balkan’s Tu-154s are contracted by the UN High Commission on Refugees to undertake a number of mercy flights to transport displaced persons willing to accept temporary housing in European nations. By April 24, the company has operated at least 12 refugee flights.