Pilots against competition
The Independent Union of Serbian Pilots has slammed the Serbian Civil Aviation Directorate for issuing licenses to foreign carriers, while Jat Airways does not enjoy the same benefits in other countries. “Turkish Airlines has been approved double the amount of flights to Belgrade than Jat Airways, contrary to international agreements. Furthermore, Wizz Air has been granted a license to set up a base in Belgrade while Jat would never have the same rights from Budapest”, a press release from the Union reads. The pilots blame individuals from the Serbian Civil Aviation Directorate and the Ministry of Transport for working against Jat’s interests.
The pilots have extended their support for the government’s bid to restructure Jat and create a successor national carrier next March. They believe the airline must have a market share of 50% from Belgrade Nikola Tesla Airport. So far this year, Jat’s market share has stood at 40%, followed by Wizz Air which enjoys a share of 11%. Serbia, which is a signatory to the European Open Skies Agreement, is not obliged to issue licenses to every carrier which requests one, since it is in the first phase of implementing the agreement. However, the Aviation Directorate adopted such a stance in 2009, which saw the arrival of several low cost airlines including Niki, Wizz Air, SkyWork Airlines and Flydubai. Previously, the Directorate would ask Jat if it had any objections for another airline to launch services to Belgrade.
This winter, twenty airlines are operating scheduled flights to Belgrade. The number will be boosted to twenty one next week when Qatar Airways launches its service from Doha. Jat, which has managed to withstand increased competition in the past few years, has done so on the back of its own revenue as it has been forced to significantly reduce its ticket prices. Nevertheless, the Serbian carrier has no direct competition on several routes. These include Amsterdam, Berlin, Brussels, Dusseldorf, Gothenburg, Larnaca, London-Heathrow, Sarajevo, Skopje, Tel Aviv and Thessaloniki. However, Wizz Air operates flights to alternative airports to several of the abovementioned cities.