Saturday, August 29, 2009

Archive files

This is the eighth in a series of archival news items which are being published each Saturday. The news items date back from the late 1970s until the early 1990s. This collection of news articles have been published in various newspapers and official historic publications.

The following article talks about the airline’s large scale plans for the last decade of the 20th century. By the late 1980s JAT had already devised plans to begin a new wave of fleet renewal and a new wave of long haul route launches. Little did the airline’s management know that those years would be the toughest it has ever faced.
Grand plans for the 1990s

After the breakup of the Eastern Bloc and the historic changes that took place in Eastern Europe, as well as the first multi party elections in Yugoslavia, first signs of serious crisis began to show in the country. Nevertheless, JAT continued ahead with its plans to establish itself as one of the largest European carriers. JAT was planning to begin services to Caracas, the capital of Venezuela in 1991. Thus, in April 1990 the airline initiated the signing of an interstate air traffic agreement between Yugoslavia and Venezuela, the first such agreement with a country from South America. JAT had chosen Venezuela as its first South American destination as it was the most sustainable for air traffic development. Thus, from 1991 JAT was expected to connect Yugoslavia with cities from 6 continents. During that year the Yugoslav – Israeli air agreement was also signed and JAT immediately began operating flights to Tel Aviv twice per week. The airline was also planning another surprise for 1991. It was to begin services to Seoul, the capital of South Korea. Thus, in 1990, an interstate agreement between Yugoslavia and the Republic of Korea was signed in Belgrade. As the agreement nominated a number of carriers, JAT and Adria launched talks early on with Korean Air and Asiana Airlines, on joining a broadly based cooperation. As even more agreements were signed in 1990 JAT was also considering the possibility of beginning services to Hong Kong, Shanghai and Tokyo.

The first Gulf War began in August 1990, after which JAT immediately organised an evacuation of all Yugoslav nationals from the area. The Middle East was an extremely lucrative market for JAT and Yugoslavia in general with thousands of Yugoslav citizens working in the region on behalf of Yugoslav companies. Three aircraft from Amman landed in Belgrade on August 14, 1990. These flights were redirected from Baghdad and the war torn Kuwait. A total of 7.000 people were transported on these special flights.

In 1990, JAT carried 3.828.000 passengers and 38.226 tonnes of cargo. Domestic services continued reporting a downward trend, mostly due to added competition. JAT was also preparing itself for the delivery of its first MD11 aircraft in the April 1991. Development considerations had prompted the decision to modernise the airline’s long haul fleet with the addition of 3 MD11 aircraft on March 3, 1988 under a lease purchase agreement. The advance payment was to be secured from the sale of 2 DC9s in 1989 and 1 DC10 in 1990. The MD11 can seat 320 passengers and can reach Los Angeles or Singapore from Belgrade without a stop. Also its fuel consumption is 20% less than that of the DC10. The manufacturing of the aircraft was about to start. JAT would receive its first MD11 in March 1991 and the second in December that same year. In 1990 in Washington JAT signed the 300 million Dollar agreement, under very favourable terms for JAT. Among other things, JAT was to become the owner of the aircraft after the 15 year lease period ended. In 1990 a decision to buy a fourth MD11 was made.

Ticket sales in Yugoslavia in 1990:

RepublicDomestic (%)International (%)
Bosnia & Herzegovina4.686.42

The year 1990 was the last year in which JAT operated more or less with stability. It was the year before the events which would shake the foundations of the common state and bring about its break up, war and destruction took place.

Next week: D-day (part 1)

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