The end of JAT
The sanctions had not yet been imposed when JAT launched intensive preparations for the hard times ahead on May 21, 1992. The company management made a decision to reduce the number of employees at home and abroad to an optimal level. A large number of employees were sent on three month leave (fully payed) on May 25. The primary goal was set to define the elements, strategy and business policies conducive to JAT’s survival under the embargo conditions, and to create the environment for the company’s revival once the sanctions were lifted. It was planed for JAT not to abandon any market and that the company share capital would not be sold. An order was issued to store all aircraft and components except for the bare minimum needed to conduct services inside the republics of Yugoslavia which were not at war. On May 30, the United Nations Security Council adopted resolution number 757 which imposed economic sanctions against Serbia and Montenegro, the two republics which remained under the common state. Sanctions, among other things, banned all international flights. JAT Yugoslav Airlines was forced, for the first time since World War Two, to suspend all international traffic. The last DC10 flight from Sydney and Melbourne via Singapore and Dubai ended when it landed early in the morning in Belgrade on June 1. Passengers on board were joined by more than 70 tearful JAT crew members which regularly operated on flights to Australia, once the aircraft landed in Belgrade. They would never again fly to Australia on board a JAT aircraft. Interestingly, the crew on board the flight from Australia via Dubai were extremely anxious. Sanctions began only a few minutes within the flight from Dubai. The pilots expected they would be banned to flyover most countries on route to Belgrade and did not know what to do. However, instead, traffic controllers from Saudi Arabia, Syria, Cyprus, Turkey and Bulgaria all wished them well. Memorably the Cypriot traffic controllers said “Good luck, we’ll see you soon”.
On June 1, 1991 services to Ohrid, Banja Luka, Athens, Thessaloniki, Cairo, Istanbul and Tel Aviv were terminated. On June 2, the last flight from Skopje departed and a dramatic special flight from Stockholm was operated carrying the national football team. The last city to ban JAT was Moscow. The last flight between the Yugoslav and Russian capitals was operated on June 3, 1992. On that day, on the other side of the globe, in New York, JAT employees at the New York office came to work only to find a note on the office door by the US Federal Police saying that the office is no longer open and that all of the employees have lost their jobs.
Despite its troubles, under a new name, the airline still operates today as the national carrier of another country. Although it has survived under circumstances other carriers wouldn’t it will always be remembered for its history dating from the 1960s until 1992.
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