A new beginning for Jat
Jat Airways and Etihad Airways have today formalised their cooperation which is to lead to the eventual minority takeover of Jat on behalf of Etihad. The CEO of Jat Airways Vladimir Ognjenović and his Etihad counterpart James Hogan held a press conference in Belgrade this morning announcing what the initial cooperation entails.
Mr. Hogan started the conference by announcing daily flights between Abu Dhabi and Belgrade from June, as was exclusively revealed by EX-YU Aviation News last week. You can view the timetable here. "The launch of Etihad Airways’ flights between Abu Dhabi and Belgrade, and the partnership development with Jat Airways, will cater for the significant and growing demand for air travel between the UAE and Serbia, as well as cities with large Serbian populations around the world, particularly in Australia and the US", the Etihad CEO said. Mr. Hogan took the opportunity to explain Etihad’s business model and acquisitions in other airlines. He then announced that Jat Airways will codeshare on numerous flights out of Abu Dhabi and will place its own codes on Etihad Airways flights. Destinations include Kula Lumpur, Sydney, Bangkok, Lahore, Colombo and others. You can view the full list with Jat Airways flight numbers here. Further codeshares are planned from Abu Dhabi to the United States as well as Johannesburg in South Africa. Since Serbia and South Africa do not have a bilateral air agreement, the Serbian carrier won’t be able to place its own code on Etihad’s Johannesburg service immediately.
Jat Airways will also place its code on a number of the flights operated by Etihad Airways’ equity partner, Air Berlin. A major highlight of this would be the provision of a direct link for passengers travelling from Belgrade, via Berlin, to Chicago in the US.
Etihad Airways will codeshare on 23 Jat Airways flights from Belgrade. They include Amsterdam, Athens, Berlin, Brussels, Copenhagen, Dusseldorf, Rome, Frankfurt, Gothenburg, Istalnbul, London Hethrow, Larnaca, Milan, Malmo, Moscow, Podgorica, Sarajevo, Skopje, Stockholm, Stuttgart, Thessaloniki, Tivat, Vienna and Zurich. The airline will place its codes to all destinations located in countries with which the United Arab Emirates has bilateral air agreements. "It is our great pleasure to welcome Etihad Airways to Belgrade and codeshare with the UAE’s national airline and the world’s leading airline. We look forward to increasing the number of passengers travelling between Belgrade and Abu Dhabi and enhancing the relationship between Serbia and the UAE", Jat Airways CEO Vladimir Ognjenović said. He added, "The expanded codeshare will also provide Serbian nationals with great opportunities to travel beyond Abu Dhabi with Etihad Airways and to destinations in the Middle East, Far East, Africa and Australia. We are also excited to place the Etihad code on Jat Airways’ flights across the Balkan region and Europe and build upon Belgrade’s great role as a hub".
In an interesting twist of fate, Mr. Hogan has today initiated strong links with his former employer. The CEO of Etihad Airways worked at JAT Yugoslav Airlines in the early 1980s at the carrier’s Melbourne office.
Etihad Airways will now embark on a four to six week screening process during which it will go through Jat’s business structure and prepare for a 49% takeover of the airline. Etihad is to take complete control over Jat’s management, naming its own CEO, head of finance and operations. Etihad will also partially finance the 1998 order made by Yugoslav Airlines for eight Airbus A319s, which have never been delivered. The national carrier of the United Arab Emirates would provide the pre delivery payment, allowing the aircraft to begin arriving in Belgrade.
Etihad and Jat are also set to integrate frequent flyer programs, airport lounges and handling at airports both airlines operate to. The only EX-YU airline ever to have been taken over by a larger rival was B&H Airlines in 2008 by Turkish Airlines. However, the partnership ended after four years due to disagreements between the Turkish management at B&H and the Federation government.
After the two sides signed the codeshare agreements, Etihad Airways CEO commented , “This is the beginning. Belgrade is a market with major potential. Via Belgrade we will be able to enter other parts of the region like Montenegro for example where tourism is expanding quickly. Our arrival into Belgrade means that other countries in this part of Europe will be able to use our services. This is why we think our partnership with Jat is a major asset”.