Ready for takeoff
Etihad Airways officially took over a 49% stake in Jat Airways yesterday and has rebranded the airline into Air Serbia. As part of the “groundbreaking deal” announced at an official signing in Belgrade, Etihad has been awarded a five year management contract, which President and CEO James Hogan described as the start of "exciting new opportunities for Serbia”. “We are delighted to welcome Air Serbia to our equity alliance and look forward to working constructively with them and their stakeholders to build a sustainable, competitive and profitable airline”, Hogan said. While the Etihad CEO admitted there will be some “tough decisions to make” he said he was confident “the financial investment by Etihad Airways and the Government of Serbia, together with the positive impact of our joint management expertise and experience, will help ensure this airline, with its proud history, now has an even brighter future”.
As part of Etihad’s five year management deal, current Jat Airways CEO Velibor Vukašinović has been replaced with the newly appointed Dane Kondić, who announced the new look Air Serbia, which comes with a new logo, new aircraft exteriors, redesigned cabin crew uniforms and ticket offices and a new advertising and marketing campaign. In addition to the rebranding and capital input, the agreement will see Air Serbia’s route network increase from 33 destinations to 45, thanks to a codesharing arrangement with Etihad Airways and its equity partner Air Berlin. As part of the redevelopment plan, the UAE national carrier will provide a 40 million dollar loan to Air Serbia, which will be converted into equity on January 1, 2014. A further 200 million dollars will be invested in the next five years. In addition, Etihad has agreed to provide an added 60 million dollars in the form of shareholder loans and other funding mechanisms.
✈ Fleet and product ✈
The current Jat Airways fleet of ten Boeing 737-300 aircraft will be retired from scheduled operations, and will be replaced by leased narrow body aircraft in the short term. In the longer term, an Air Serbia order will be made for 10 brand new narrow body aircraft. Air Serbia will take delivery of ten Airbus A319s by the end of the year. All aircraft will have a business and economy class section. The new interior will be identical to the ones currently used by Etihad Airways on its narrow body feet with in flight entertainment offered to all passengers and personal television screens placed in each seat. Ground handling, catering, pilot and cabin crew training, supplies, services and line maintenance of aircraft will be used jointly by both airlines.
During a staff briefing in Belgrade yesterday afternoon, Etihad CEO noted that the Boeing 737-300 fleet will not feature the new cabins and livery since they will be leaving the fleet in a few months. In the long term Air Serbia will consider other aircraft from the A320 family as well as new generation Boeing aircraft.
Air Serbia’s medium term plans are based around its product. The airline hopes to establish “operation excellence” which will, in the long term, lead to the carrier becoming “a leading airline in the region” and “and a conduit for easier access to Serbia”.
✈ Livery design ✈
The Air Serbia livery, unveiled yesterday, was designed by Tamara Maksimović. Two years ago, as a university design student, Tamara studied the Jat brand as well as future branding possibilities and posted her work online. While Etihad was undertaking its own research to rebrand Jat, they discovered Tamara’s work and contacted her. She spent a month in Abu Dhabi working with an Etihad design team to come up with the final product. Next week, Tamara will be flying out to the Emirati capital where she will finalise the design concept and work in other branding areas for the new airline.
✈ Destinations and longhaul flights ✈
EX-YU Aviation News has previously revealed the destinations the Serbian carrier plans to launch. “Among the first new Air Serbia destinations to be launched will be four flights per week between Belgrade and Abu Dhabi, from October, moving to daily when the new fleet grows to facilitate an increased service. The other destinations are Banja Luka, Beirut, Bucharest, Budapest, Cairo, Kiev, Ljubljana, Prague, Sofia, Varna, and Warsaw”, Dane Kondić said in a statement. At the employee brief, James Hogan said Air Serbia will be ready to launch long haul flights within the next two to four years. As EX-YU Aviation News exclusively learns, Air Berlin and Air Serbia are in the process of being granted regulatory approval for codeshare flights from Germany to the United States.
✈ Message from the CEO ✈
EX-YU Aviation News brings an exclusive message from Air Serbia CEO Dane Kondić to Air Serbia’s staff, “I am honoured and privileged to have been appointed Chief Executive Officer of Air Serbia. I was born in Sydney, Australia, to Serbian parents and have more than twenty years of experience in aviation and tourism. This includes fifteen years with Qantas in Australia and Asia in finance, commercial, and network roles and more than three years with Malaysia Airlines. We look forward to working closely with Etihad Airways, which celebrates its 10th anniversary this year and is the world’s fastest growing commercial airline. My pledge to you as we move forward with our exciting plans is to keep you informed of key developments in a simple, honest, and transparent manner at all stages”.
The Emir of Abu Dhabi and the President of the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, commented on yesterday’s events by saying, “This is a great day for relations between our two states, and what is even more important than this ceremony is that in the next several months, citizens of the UAE and Serbia will see how serious our governments are in establishing these ties between our two countries, of which we can be proud”.
From tomorrow EX-YU Aviation resumes with news from the rest of the region and look out for an important announcement from Macedonia next week.