AirAsia looking for Jat dealThe Malaysian low cost airline, AirAsia, is said to be close to making an offer for the takeover of the Serbian national carrier. Serbian media report that a high ranking delegation from the Kuala Lumpur based airline has been in Belgrade for several days. They are to meet with the Serbian Minister for Transport, Milutin Mrkonjić, today. It is tipped the airline could make a takeover offer by the end of the week.
AirAsia is the largest low cost airline in Asia with a base in Kuala Lumpur. It owns AirAsia subsidiaries in Thailand, the Philippines and Japan. It also has a long haul offshoot, AirAsia X, which operates flights to Australia, Iran, China, Taiwan and South Korea. The Malaysian airline has offered to invest into Jat Airways’ new fleet and turn the Serbian carrier into a profit making business as soon as possible. Today’s talks are set to centre on the way a potential takeover would be carried out.
Media reports suggest AirAsia has decided to turn Belgrade into its European hub point so as to carry passengers to Kuala Lumpur from where they would catch onward connections to Australia and Asia. In return, Jat would carry AirAsia passengers onwards to European destinations. Initial talks between Jat and AirAsia began in June in Singapore. Whether these reports will turn out to be just another in a long list of “interested parties” which never made a move to purchase Jat remains to be seen.
Relations between Serbia and Malaysia have been poor. Since 1991 Yugoslav passport holders, together with Israeli nationals, have been banned from entering the country. The ban for Serbian citizens was lifted only five years ago. The first diplomatic meeting between the two countries since 1991 took place in 2008. The AirAsia Group is owned by businessmen Tony Fernandes. It operates a fleet of 101 Airbus aircraft, with a further 279 on order. This year, Skytrax named AirAsia the world’s best low cost airline.