Saturday, September 12, 2009

Archive files

This is the tenth 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 talks about the complete collapse of an airline which was one of the largest in Europe, as Yugoslavia began to crumble.
D-day (part 2)

By October 1991, war was already raging across Yugoslavia. JAT had lost many investments within the newly independent country of Croatia. Among other things the Yugoslav airline had 7 offices in Croatia and an entire handling service, line maintenance teams, catering services, car services and over 300 employees at all of Croatia’s 7 airports. From 1986 until 1990 JAT alone invested some 9.5 million American dollars in the construction of Dubrovnik and Zagreb Airport terminal buildings as well as 3.200.000 dollars on the construction of a hotel complex named Duga Uvala near Pula. JAT also invested some 50 billion Dinars in the reconstruction of the Esplanada Hotel in Zagreb. All of these investments were lost in 1991 and JAT was banned from operating in Croatia.

Domestic air carriers JAT and Adria Airways maintained regular traffic on domestic and international services in 1990. Adria Airways accounted for 15% of all passengers on domestic services and 5% on Euro-Mediterranean flights in 1990. Meanwhile, JAT accounted for the remaining 85% on Euro-Mediterranean services, 95% on domestic flights and 100% on intercontinental routes. In order to realistically assess just how the break up of the former Yugoslavia affected JAT, that is the loss of the Croatian and Slovenian markets and later the loss of Macedonia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, one must look at the statistics of the affected operations. The outline of the individual federal units’ participation in traffic in 1990 may serve to illustrate the actual passenger flow. Air transport operations were maintained at 16 Yugoslav airports, along with the ones in Banja Luka, Osijek, Portorož and to a lesser degree at Mali Lošinj. The level of passenger flow between the republics was as follows:

RepublicsPassenger flow (%)
Serbia - Croatia34
Croatia - Croatia21
Serbia - Slovenia10
Serbia - Bosnia & Herzegovina7
Serbia - Macedonia9
Serbia - Montenegro9
Croatia - Bosnia & Herzegovina6
Croatia - Macedonia4

Analysts have concluded that on domestic services, JAT, as the agent of development in this area, lost 40% of its passenger potential due to the break up of Yugoslavia. Until the country’s break up, Yugoslav air carriers for the most part used Belgrade, Zagreb, Ljubljana, Split and Dubrovnik airports for international traffic. As a rule, JAT connected all services bound for Western Europe with stop overs in Zagreb or Ljubljana, motivated by demand. Percentage wise individual airport participation in international passenger handling in 1990 may be seen from the following table:

AirportPassengers handled (%)
Split and Dubrovnik3

After Germany, Italy followed suit and banned JAT services on January 10, 1992. Even so, JAT desperately tried to remain above water and expand traffic on all other markets. Firstly, traffic was established for the first time between Yugoslavia and Israel. Plans were being made to launch flights from Belgrade to Johannesburg and plans were also formulated for a big expansion in the Macedonian republic. Nevertheless, the situation in the country and in the company was highly tense and uncertain. It was quite clear that after the war ceased in Croatia in late 1991, there was a real danger of conflict in neighbouring republics. Indeed, war broke out in Bosnia and Herzegovina too. After airports in Sarajevo and Mostar were closed, JAT began to fly to Banja Luka on April 8, 1992. As war in Bosnia and Herzegovina escalated, the US imposed an air traffic embargo on Yugoslavia in May 1992. JAT conducted its last flights to Chicago and New York on May 18 and 19, respectively. That day JAT made the decision to redirect its long haul traffic and redirect passengers from the US via Canada. However, Canada followed the US and transatlantic operations were ceased on May 24, with DC10s operating their last flights to Toronto and Montreal.

Next week: The end of JAT (final archive file)


  1. I really love reading those articles. It would be interesting to see what would have happened with JAT if Yugoslavia remained united. Considering the fact that many other national airlines, rasied in much more stable political environment, have disappeared or are on a verge of collapse (Sabena, Swissair, Alitalia, SAS...), it is hard to believe that JAT would be able to get away untouched.


  2. Alitalia operating/operated in a stable political environment??

    Remind me how many Italian prime minsisters/governments there have been since WWII, and which nation is home to the mafia? I'd hardly call either of those stablising political forces!

  3. Numerous changes within the government don’t necessarily affect an airline's operations. The main reason for Alitalia's disarray is the airline's mismanagement and lack of focus. Sabena and Swissair resided in probably the most stable political environment in the world, but still, were not able to survive. What happened in ex Yugoslavia and to JAT cannot be compared in any way with Italy and Alitalia's hibernation. The fact is that JAT was on a good way to become one of the most successful airlines in Europe not with the help of its government but with the smart tactic and careful market research which resulted in passengers’ number increase and profitable growth.


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