10 Questions for Nikolay Dimitrov / Bulgarian EU Presidency
Bulgaria has been the center of European politics since January, as it became the presiding country of the Council of the European Union. We could not be more thrilled to promote Bulgaria where we have our people stationed at all major airports.
While the seat of the EU Council is in Brussels, Belgium, where most of the key meetings take place, Bulgaria’s capital has been hosting many events and will be welcoming state officials until the end of the Bulgaria presidency on July 31, 2018.
We asked our amazing Country Manager for Bulgaria, Nikolay Dimitrov, who has been very busy managing a lot of projects and flights since the beginning of the year, about the specifics of supporting diplomatic flights.
1. Nikolay, what was the first flight related to the Presidency that your team coordinated in Sofia since January?
On the 11th of January 2018, the President of the European Council Donald Tusk and his delegation arrived for the Official Ceremony to mark the beginning of the Bulgarian Presidency of the Council of the European Union. His whole opening speech was in the Bulgarian language which we welcomed with much appreciation.
2. What is the most important aspect of taking care of a diplomatic flight coming into Sofia airport?
Even though we cannot disclose the exact protocols that need to be followed in the case of a diplomatic flight, the most important thing is to know who to talk to – who is the proper authority through which all the arrangements for specific parts of provided services need to go through. Euro Jet Bulgaria has a lot of experience with such flights so we are more than familiar with such procedures.
3. Are there any specific limitations that apply at Sofia airport?
Not really. Parking is limited to 72 hours during certain periods and can only be extended upon request. Our Operations Control Center in Prague would receive a NOTAM in such a case and communicate it to all customers who could be affected.
4. Since January do you have any recommendations for our customers? Are there any changes or news that could be helpful to know beforehand?
We managed to smooth things out in accordance with all rules for each flight and its specifics. What I would recommend to our customers is to arrange their hotel accommodation as early as possible – hotel availability might be a challenge.
What makes our job always easier is when we know information and details for each flight early on – this guarantees that we can cooperate with our partners at the airport in advance and have enough time to meticulously control every service requested.
5. Having been in the air force yourself, you are experienced with military flights. What are the differences between coordinating diplomatic and military flights?
Yes, I served at the largest Bulgarian Air Force Base. I like working with Military Operators, but there is a whole set of different challenges that we need to think about.
For example, we have supported week’s long exercises, KC-135T/R fuelling missions with tankers based here had to be available 24/7, we worked with Navy P-3C Orion anti-submarine and maritime surveillance aircraft flying into Burgas or Varna Airport and participated in annual naval exercises. We supported C-17 offloading/loading tanks, heavy armoured fighting vehicles, attack boats, with scores of armed soldiers, many Distinguished Visitor (DV) flights with high ranking Generals or Special Air Mission (SAM) flights.
There are many instructions that we need to follow and they constantly change. The general policy that applies to these flights is "hurry up and wait". There are many factors coming from different chains of command which we need to be ready for at all times. Flexibility and readiness for change is the key to taking care of military flights.
Diplomatic flights are easier to take care of in terms of services as they usually do not change as much.
6. Can you briefly introduce us to the Sofia Ground Support team?
We have two wonderful agents in Sofia with a combined 25+ years experience in Aviation and Customer Service. Our Lead Agent since 2008 is Mr. Dimitar Petkov. He is working alongside with Mr. Dimitar Bacharov. Both are doing stellar work and proven themselves in many tough moments and are a great part of the Euro Jet Bulgaria Team. I am very proud of them.
7. Euro Jet will soon open a ramp office at the private aviation section of the Sofia airport…
Yes. It is not a large office, but it is nice and cozy. What is very important for us is that the office is air side - strategically positioned in a building which is located right in the middle of the Sofia AP Apron, right next to the brand new parking stands for general aviation flights. Having an office in the terminal or airport admin buildings would not be as helpful for our flights. And we are now the only ground support to have an office this close to the parking stands. We are completely refurbishing the office space to have it look like other Euro Jet lounges. We have also invested into purchasing a brand new Mercedes MPV van which we operate on the Sofia Airport ramp. All these investments are also strategic – Sofia is developing, and we see more business coming into the country and the first stop is always Sofia. I'm convinced there will be even more general aviation traffic in the years to come.
An interesting fact is also that in 2017 the airport surpassed 6 million passengers for the first time which is a 30.3% increase compared to 2016.
8. You are based out of Burgas, Bulgaria, a seaside town which has along with the Varna airport seen increase in traffic especially during summer months…
Very true. Both Burgas (LBBG) and Varna (LBWN) Airports have seen growth in traffic over the past ten years. My native town is Burgas and for the last couple of years it has been voted as the best city to live in in Bulgaria. Ryanair even opened a new base at Burgas in March 2018. Varna especially sees an increase in traffic during the summer months.
Both airports have had to adjust to all the scheduled as well as unscheduled traffic with building new terminals, improving adjacent facilities, and VIP lounges. However, given the immense summer traffic, GA flights are more challenging. Euro Jet Bulgaria has a great cooperation with FRAPORT TSAM, which allows us to provide our customers with the best service. I am very excited about all the GA traffic coming our way, especially in Burgas where I am stationed.
9. What are your most favorite operations to support?
Definitely U.S. military flights, especially the large scale exercises.
10. What are your must-see recommendations for the beautiful capital city of Bulgaria?
I recommend the National History Museum, especially the Panagyurishte Gold Treasure. There are also free English language sightseeing walking tours in Sofia which I highly recommend as the tours are done by the locals.