The following article dates back from 1991 when war swept over Yugoslavia and JAT Yugoslav Airlines, still the national carrier of the common Yugoslav state, was forced to suspend some regional services and soon many international flights.
D-day (part 1)
What in 1990 was still a sinister threat became a full blown reality in 1991. The year began and ended with war. Due to the increasingly dramatic developments in the Middle East and a growing certainty of wars and conflicts in the Gulf, the beginning of 1991 indicated great losses for commercial aviation worldwide. Airlines began suspending services to the Middle East and JAT, with an extremely large coverage of the Gulf region, was no exception. Meanwhile, the political and economic situation in Yugoslavia was becoming increasingly alarming. The Yugoslav economy’s insolvency deeply affected all businesses. JAT approached 1991 hoping that the financial recovery programme and credits it counted on to implement it would partially stabilise the situation. However, it soon became obvious that deep cuts and cost cutting measures were needed to stabilise the carrier financially.
The political crisis in the country also affected JAT’s position and operations, a company which was one of the biggest in Yugoslavia covering and operating across the entire country. In late January and early February, Zagreb and Split airports began an erratic relationship with JAT often denying landing, offloading of cargo and so on. Secession was in full swing and for JAT this meant fresh problems and further losses. The eruption of war in Croatia and the increasingly difficult situation in Slovenia made JAT suspend all air traffic in the 2 republics in August and September 1991. JAT performed its last flight from Zadar Airport on August 3, from Rijeka on August 5 and from Zagreb, Dubrovnik and Split on August 6. The last flight that operated from Pula was performed on September 15. On November 23, that same year, JAT indefinitely discontinued all services to Mostar in the Yugoslav republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Despite this unfavourable turn of events, both at home and abroad, JAT was determined to, as much as possible, continue operating and even try to move on in terms of development. On April 1, 1991, it launched automated check-in at Belgrade Airport. The advantage over the classic system was that it completely avoided problems of overbooking and also managed to process passengers promptly. The first passengers to be checked in this way were those flying to Warsaw. JAT gradually began introducing automated check-in at Split and Zagreb Airport as well as Frankfurt and New York. That year, regular traffic between Yugoslavia and Iran was resumed after 24 years, on April 19. JAT signed an agreement with the Iranian national carrier Iran Air in February. This agreement, in turn, was to be approved by an interstate air traffic agreement between the two countries. Services to Larnaca, Cyprus also began on October 1. As November rolled pass losses rose progressively and the war in the country was taking its toll.
The poor situation in the company caused by the deterioration of the economic and political situation in the country led to a large scale strike by the majority of JAT’s employees employed in the Serbian republic. As a result of the strike, the entire management was dismissed by the government and an emergency administration was introduced. Another blow came in late 1991 when the German government introduced an embargo on all air traffic from Yugoslavia. Theoretically, the embargo applied to the country as a whole, but clearly (and de facto) it was only applied to the republics of Serbia and Montenegro.
Next week: D-day (part 2)