From Tirana to Peshkopi and Korça by plane! A unique case in Europe. How did Albanians travel in the 20s?

2024-01-13 09:47:00Histori SHKRUAR NGA KRESHNIK KUÇAJ
Tirana Airport, 1940s

In 1913, Përlindja e Shqipnis', the official newspaper of Ismail Qemali's government... would report an important event...

Esad Pasha, the Minister of the Interior who also covered war issues, during his visit to Vienna, had tried flying by plane for the first time...

"On the occasion of the visit that Esad Pasha made to the lama of war in Wiener Neustad, Esad got on the plane and flew us at 500 meters above sea level for a quarter of an hour"

Birth of Shqipnis, 1913

From Tirana to Peshkopi and Korça by plane! A unique case in Europe. How

To fly by plane was considered a rare thing not only for an Albanian but also for citizens of developed countries due to the fact that until those years, aviation was considered one of the greatest technological innovations.

It would be the First World War that would give impetus to the development of aviation.

This war accelerated all aspects of it, turning the sky into a battlefield between the states involved in the conflict.

The skies of Albania would be the battlefield of the Italians, who in 1916, among other things, set up an airfield for military purposes in Vlora, which, in addition to ordinary planes, also included a seaplane base.

The same practice was followed by the Austrians, who erected different hangars for their planes and used the field areas to take off.

At the end of the war, Albania was in a difficult situation regarding communications.

The challenge was for the development of the country to develop a transport network that connected the cities and, on the other hand, helped in the development of trade. During the Ottoman Empire, no roads or railways were built.

And at the end of the First World War, Albania found itself with several hundred kilometers of roads built mainly by the Italian and Austrian forces present in Albania and with a railway network of the decoville type, almost out of operation.

Since the roads and transport lines had a military character, they were mainly concentrated in the plain part of the country, while the mountainous part was almost unconnected with the rest of the country. so under these conditions, the challenge presented was that of connecting the cities between them, in order to create exchanges and create a national market.

The construction of roads and railways had an unaffordable cost at the time, so one of the most practical solutions that Albania would follow was that of organizing an air network that would serve the movement of people and goods inside and outside the country.

Albania takes the first step in 1920. For the first time in Albania, the branch of army airplanes is created in the Albanian army.

"The command with the new reformation that you will see in the army is a sensible boss that also has parts of airplanes, which are not only very necessary in the army and all modern armies have them, but they make an imposing impression on the people. as well as exceptions. But since we don't have officers of this technical branch, the command is of the opinion to send 3 officers to Europe on an airplane course where possible and acceptable by the ministry who learn how to use them properly and in this way let's take the first step in this branch as well.

Please, Mr. S'wej, that this proposal be accepted by your Ministry Council and communicated to us as soon as possible so that we can put it into action.

Tirana 3/10/1920.

Gendarmerie Command, request to the Ministry of the Interior.

Two years later, in 1922, Albania managed to buy 2 airplanes, which were maintained with budgetary expenses.

But this venture turned out to be very expensive and as a result the service did not work as expected. The main reason was the lack of aircraft technicians.

Under these conditions, in November 1924, the Albanian government signed a 10-year concession agreement with the German company "Lufthansa". The signatory from the German side was Otto Habërmahl, while from the Albanian side Qazim Koculi, Minister of Public Works and Agriculture in Albania.

On the basis of this agreement, the Albanian airline was created under the name "Adria Aero Lloyd".

The start of the implementation of this agreement is accompanied by the construction a few months later of the first field in the capital that would be used for the landing and takeoff of planes.

This field was built in the Shallvareve area, with an area of ??400 by 200 meters and the internal destinations were Vlora and Shkodra.

The agreement provided for the establishment of domestic air transport lines between Tirana, Shkodra, Durrës, Vlora, Berat and Gjirokastra and at a second moment with Korça, Kukës and Peshkopi.

The first airplanes that were used for civilian transport were the Albatros EG type, which were actually military airplanes with a small passenger capacity. They could only carry 3 passengers and several kilograms of luggage. Also, the field in Tirana was small, while the airport and aerodrome were actually a few wooden shacks.

The rapprochement of Albania with Italy, the signing of the agreement for the loan for the economic development of the country, would bring about the transfer of the German concession to the Italians within a few years.

The company "Adria Aero Lloyd" was bought by the Office of Civil Aviation Traffic of the Ministry of Air of Italy, Ala Littoria, in 1927. In this way, the organization of internal and external civil transport really began.

The Italian aviation company immediately undertook the renovation of Albania's aircraft fleet by bringing in 5 Breda aircraft that had dual functions, civil and military simultaneously.

According to the Albanian aviation researcher Mati Baba, the real wealth of Albania in this period were the aerodromes. The realization of such a project for foreign companies was actually not profitable from the point of view of economic benefit, however the project served a geostrategic need.

In case of war, Albania's aerodromes used for civilian transport could be turned into aerodromes for warplanes, which would actually happen many years later.

The launch of domestic flights was accompanied by the opening of various runways in the main cities of the country.

This also led to the expansion of flights to other cities such as Elbasan, Gjirokastra, Korça or Peshkopia. International lines with the most important capitals were also opened; Rome, Sofia, Belgrade or Podgorica. In addition to the expansion of air transport lines, the construction of the airport in the Lapraka area begins in Tirana.

In 1934, the works for the construction of Tirana Airport (Laprakë) began, which were completed at the end of 1935. This airport, which received the name Tirana Airport, was built according to the best technological parameters of the time, having also a concrete runway and suitable hangars. For the first time, the airport also had a meteorological services facility that guaranteed safer flight assistance and higher security for passengers.

At the beginning of the 1930s, it turns out that there were about 40 aircraft operating in Albania that were used for military purposes but also for local and international civil flights.

From Tirana to Peshkopi and Korça by plane! A unique case in Europe. How

From Tirana to Peshkopi and Korça by plane! A unique case in Europe. How

Official statistics of this period show a progressive increase in the number of civil flights.

In the 1930s, domestic air transport took a big leap, due to the fact that aerodromes were built in almost all major cities.

In this period, Albania is among the rare countries in the world that had more developed internal air transport than other forms of transport.

In an Italian report on Albania in 1940, the civil airlines are given in detail. In the conditions of shortages and difficulties presented for road transport, traders would massively use domestic airlines to buy and transport goods. Likewise, the development of civil air transport would also greatly benefit the postal service.

Parcel letters were sent via airmail, for which there would also be special stamps.

The planes that would be used for this purpose were with two or three engines, of the brand Savioa-Marchetti and Breda, of small capacity. Almost every day there were flights from Tirana to other cities of the country, as well as to the cities of western countries.

It is interesting that flights to cities abroad were made not only from Tirana but also from small cities such as Devolli, Peshkopia, Vlora or Shkodra. This is related to the fact that there was interest in such lines from Italian personnel working in companies that used natural resources.

Airline fares and routes

The carriage of passengers, baggage and goods was governed by the 1933 directive on international carriage and the 1929 Warsaw convention. According to these rules, passengers could carry baggage up to 15 kilograms.

For exceeding this weight, they paid an additional fee. For children under the age of 3, 10 percent of the normal fare had to be paid. Children aged 3 to 7 paid 50 percent of the normal fare.

In the function of the new airport of Tirana, a direct bus line from Elbasani street to the airport of Tirana was put in place to transport passengers, while there was also a special ticket office where tickets were received.

Meanwhile, the airlines of this period also offered a 50 percent price discount for senators, state ministers and advisors, federal secretaries, Italian and Albanian state officials, prefects, Italian and Albanian military officials and their families. Italian journalists, academics, etc.

Also, there were other fare discounts from 30 to 10 percent, depending on the functions of the people traveling. The cost of insurance, which amounted to 100,000 Italian lira, was included in the flight fee.

Air flights and fares

Gjirokastra-Rome 100 gold francs

Gjirokastra-Tirana 28 gold francs

Gjirokastra-Vlora 11 gold francs

Korçë-Rome 93 gold francs

Korça-Tirana 20 gold francs

Devoll-Rome 84 gold francs

Devoll-Tirana 11 gold francs

Kukës-Tirana 25 gold francs

Kukës-Shkodër-Tirana 31 gold francs

Bishop-Rome 88 gold francs

Peshkopi-Tirana 16 gold francs

Rome-Tirana 500 Italian lira

Thessaloniki-Tirana 14 dollars

Shkodër-Brindisi 44 gold francs

Shkodër-Kukës 20 gold francs

Shkodër-Rome 84 gold francs

Shkodër-Tirana 11 gold francs

Shkodër-Kukës-Tirana 25 gold francs

Sofia-Tirana 28.5 dollars

Tirana-Gjirokastër 28 gold francs

Tirana-Brindisi 35 gold francs

Tirana-Korçë 20 gold francs

Tirana-Devoll 11 gold francs

Tirana-Kukës 25 gold francs

Tirana-Kukës-Shkodër 31 gold francs

Tirana-Peshkopi 16 gold francs

Tirana-Rome 75 gold francs

Tirana-Thessalonica 39 gold francs

Tirana-Sofia 83 gold francs

Tirana-Vlora 17 gold francs

Vlora-Gjirokastra 11 frangaari

Vlora-Rome 90 gold francs

Vlorë-Tirana 17 gold francs


Albania, part of the Air Tourist Guide

In 1930, Captain Norman Macmillan would publish the Air Tourist Guide of Europe, including many details, but also evaluations for Albania that had managed to develop civil air transport.

This is what he wrote about the Albanians in his guide originally published in New York.

"For a traveler in Europe. There can be no more interesting country than Albania, because in its own way, it is unique among European countries. Its inhabitants are of early origin, a mixture of Illyrians and Celts, their language is one of the purest and most ancient in use in Europe today. Surprisingly, it has a very good air service that provides access to its main cities, something admirable in such a small country, for which the country has Italy to thank.

Flight line Brindizi-Vlora-Brindizi

Flights are from both sides on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. Crossing the Adriatic takes exactly 1 hour. Airplanes, seaplanes of the Savoia and Kant types are used for this service. Seaplanes leave Brindisi at 10 a.m. and return to Vlora at 2 p.m. 15 kilograms of luggage is allowed free of charge for each passenger.

The journey from Tirana to Korça takes 1 hour and 15 minutes, while the journeys from Tirana to Shkodër and Tirana to Vloira each take 1 hour. Since these tours are offered from one side of the kingdom to the other side, they are evidence of the small size of this country" was written in the Air Travel Guide for the countries of Europe.

The fact that Albania had developed air transport would attract quite a bit of attention from foreign travelers visiting Albania. There is no lack of different articles in the international press, which would emphasize the energy that a country like Albania was showing to catch the fast pace of development.

In the magazine Minerva in 1935, a report about Albania by Jakob Altmaier in the newspaper "Pariser Tageeblat" would be published. Altmaier titles his report, "Donkey and Airplane", where the first is the traditional means of transportation of Albanians, while the second, the new means..

"The donkey and the plane! Between these two poles, the life of the capital of Shqipnis passes.

On one side of the boss you can see veiled Muslim women, but on the other side, an elegant man passes by them, escorting two women from his family on a visit, dressed in the most modern costumes of Paris.

From the tops of the minarets, the hoxha calls the faithful to the mosque, while down in the cafe, young men, elegantly dressed, tell their adventures in the Monte Carlo playroom.

Whereas in the streets of the market, the feet break through the cobblestones and the mud goes up to the knee, the youth walks through the cemented and asphalted boulevards.

When it rains, the inhabitants put pots and tins under the shelter of the culverts to collect the rainwater, while the billiard grain sprouts in the beautiful cafes and graceful Greek waiters, powdered and colorful, are brought to the tables for service.

Like a living geographical map, workers and street workers come to the city, whose clothing is our rags with all kinds of patches.

But the officers in beautiful uniforms are walking down the street, or selling in a car or a cart, with elegance, with an aristocratic demeanor, as if they had come from Hollywood to take part in a movie.

If we look at it superficially, today Tirana gives the impression of a central movie district; that's how it seems to a stranger, although it's not like that.

There is not a film in the world that is so ugly, but at the same time so beautiful, so modern and so exotic, so trivial and so dramatic, as in the Albanian capital.

In this city, qi is divided into many neighborhoods, from the bazaar of Damascus to the airport of Le Bourget; from the bottle of champagne to the lack of water; from "Malzaraxha's daughter" to Edgar Wallace's detective novel; from the donkey to the plane!

This is the impression Tirana makes on those who look at it superficially; but the one who opposes it, they say, is more of a boss: the boss of an intelligent people, who creates and who suffers, who wants to progress and who fights against the obstacles that time has brought.

Jakob Altmaier


Report entitled "Donkey and Airplane", Minerva 1935


In 1938, Albania would establish a direct flight line with Belgrade as well. A special commission of the Yugoslav Aeronautical Society AEROPUT would come in 1938 to Tirana to sign the agreement with the competent bodies of the Albanian government for the creation of a direct airline between the Albanian capital and the capital and Belgrade.

Since Belgrade was connected by direct air lines to all the main centers of Central Europe, this line meant a new interconnection of Albania with many other important countries, using Belgrade as an air gateway.

In this way, Tirana turned into an air center of international importance by creating direct connections through the Tirana-Rome line, with the east through the Tirana-Thessalonica line and with Central Europe through the Tirana-Belgrade line.

During the period of the country's occupation, 1939-1944, Albania's aerodromes would be used mainly for military purposes, although the use of aircraft for civilian purposes is not lacking.

Turning aviation into a weapon during communism

An important and decisive period for the development of aviation in Albania is the period of the communist regime. The change of power, the way the state is organized, the politics of the time and the trend dictated by world developments make air flights in Albania the exclusivity of the army. In this period, we do not have private companies operating in the sector, just as civil air transport is limited to a maximum.

After the Second World War, within the framework of international agreements, Tirana's airport would be administered almost entirely by the British.

After the consolidation of the new government, there was a need to resume civil flights that would be put into function of the country's need to increase exchanges of people and goods with other countries.

In this period, the aviation researcher Mati Baba in his study of the history of aviation writes that one of the first steps taken was the appointment of a special company to protect the Tirana aerodrome in the Lapraka area from the passage of pedestrians or of animals.

Also, it became mandatory to have special and special authorizations for the persons who could enter and move in the aerodrome.

During the war period, Tirana's airfield had served as the main military aviation hub for the Balkans and also held a large number of aircraft that were operational but had been left behind due to lack of fuel.

In the first years of liberation, Albania would have Yugoslavia as its main ally, so the organization of civil aviation, now only for international lines, would be given to Yugoslavia.

Unlike before, in the policy of the new regime air transport was not seen as an economic alternative for the domestic market but for the foreign market.

Civil aviation on domestic routes was discontinued due to the fact that attention would be focused on a less expensive means of transport, the railways.

In this period, massive campaigns are undertaken for the extension of railway lines and for the construction of roads connecting the centers of the populated areas of the country and thus taking out of the objective the possibility of developing internal air transport.

It should be highlighted the fact that in this period, Albania was unable to provide aircraft that could perform this internal function, and on the other hand, the practice of concessioning could not be perceived in the context of the country's economic development project, which is completely in the hands of the state. .

In the years 1955-1957, the Rinas Airport was built by the forces of genius, for military purposes, which was later passed under the administration of the Ministry of Transport. At the same time, on January 25, 1957, the "State Enterprise of Foreign Air Transport (Albtransport) was created, based in Tirana.

The first international flights would be carried out by the Yugoslav airline JAT and later by the Soviet AEROFLLOT. The signing of agreements with other communist countries for air flights would bring various Czechoslovak, Polish, German, Yugoslav and Bulgarian airlines to Albania.

Most of the planes in this period had a capacity of 24 seats, while only the Yugoslav company had a capacity of 140 passengers.

In this period, civil aviation would serve not only the movement of foreign and Albanian delegations to other countries, but also foreign trade.

The signing of trade agreements, and especially Albania's being in the group of countries of the mutual economic assistance council where trade was developed on the basis of exchanges, would mean that many goods would be transported by plane from Albania to other countries.

Thus, planes departing from Albania would transport lemons, oranges, chestnuts, grapes and vegetables in bulk. Cargo planes actually had a different schedule than passenger lines.

In this project to reorganize international air transport, there would be no shortage of help from other countries.

Civil aviation would see primary development over military aviation, at least until the early 1960s. Until this period, the new airport of Rinas would be massively frequented by planes from many countries, having a flow of passengers as well as a flow of goods.

After the exit of Albania from the Warsaw Treaty and when the country's isolation period begins,

With the breakdown of relations with the Soviet Union, Rinas airport would become increasingly silent. The airport itself underwent a series of staff cuts, and only a small core essential to its operation was retained. In this period, the only flights were those of the German Lufthansa, which made flights once a week, and of the Yugoslav JAT, which operated according to the needs of the time.

Meanwhile, during this period, Albania started an intensive military program extending in several directions, so as for aviation, the focus was in another direction. In December 1961, the Fighter Aviation Regiment was established at Rinas Airport by the Ministry of Defense. Likewise, the military airports of Gjadri and Kuçova were built, as well as the relevant technical structures for the aviation field.

In this way, aviation in Albania took on a completely military character, having civil aviation as a secondary part, at a time when the movements of Albanian citizens were very few due to the isolation of Albania.

The situation of civil aviation would change after the fall of the communist regime. Albania's exit from isolation would bring well-known international flight companies back to Rinas Airport. Now, after three decades, the airport of Albania, Rinas airport has become one of the fastest growing airports in the region and Europe...