Jat brand to live another dayDespite rumours, announcements and plans, sources close to the Serbian government have confirmed that there are currently no plans for the creation of a successor national carrier to Jat Airways, which will continue to operate as normal. Sources suggest that due to the close proximity of the upcoming elections no action will be taken in the privatisation or rebranding of Jat for the time being and that this “hot potato” will be another government’s problem. In a leaked letter to Airbus, Serbia’s Prime Minister, Mirko Cvetković, apologised for his government’s lack of ability to renegotiate a 1998 deal for eight Airbus A319 jets, ordered for the then Yugoslav national carrier. In the letter, the Prime Minister pleads with Airbus for more time. The letter from the Serbian Prime Minister seems to have calmed relations between the two sides. Airbus has decided not sue the government, which it threatened to do so only several weeks ago. It has since emerged that the task group, which was assigned to renegotiate the Airbus deal, has been dismantled under the orders of the Prime Minister. The task group, which was set up several years ago, has not met even once. Instead, the government has now given more power to Jat to head the negotiations.
The Serbian Minister for Infrastructure, Milutin Mrkonjić, has, over the past few weeks, constantly claimed that Jat’s successor will be set up by the start of May. However, experts believe that this is indicative that the Minister is unhappy that the Jat “issue” has been taken from his portfolio by the Prime Minister. Stanislav Novaković, who specialises in airline industry law says, “These stories come from a man who has absolutely no basic knowledge of the airline industry or commercial aviation”, referring to Mrkonjić. “Unfortunately, as a Minister he is not even remotely interested in Jat Airways except when it comes to giving statements to the press. Why would the state set up a new airline when it already has an existing one? If it is unable to deal with its current national carrier it means that the state is incapable of dealing with another. It would simply destroy a new carrier it set up”, Novaković concludes.
Although Jat, as the successor of Aeroput, has been around for 85 years, the actual JAT brand name was set up on April 1, 1947. Its first flight under the name took place that day from Belgrade to Ljubljana on a Douglas DC-3.