Delta complains of planned Air Serbia codeshare flights to the US
Delta Air Lines has filed another complaint against Air Serbia’s planned codeshare operations to the United States, as EX-YU Aviation News exclusively learns from the United States Department of Transportation (DoT). As previously reported, late last week the DoT dismissed an application for Air Serbia to place its “JU” designator code on Etihad flights from Abu Dhabi to New York, Chicago and Washington following complaints made by Delta Air Lines, Air Line Pilots Association and Pilots of America. The plaintiffs argued that while Air Serbia is officially state owned, Etihad has too much power in its day to day operations and branded the routing from Belgrade to the US via Abu Dhabi as “bizarre”. Delta has now filed a fresh complaint against Air Serbia, this time over its planned codeshares with Air Berlin from Dusseldorf to New York and from Berlin to both New York and Chicago.
Responding to a joint codeshare request by Air Berlin and Air Serbia, Delta said, “Air Serbia has no underlying economic authority to serve the United States”. It adds, “Air Serbia’s exemption application should be denied. There is no bilateral agreement in place between the United States and Serbia, and the unique circumstances surrounding Air Serbia’s ownership and control do not qualify for relief on the basis of comity and reciprocity”. As EX-YU Aviation learned from the DoT, Air Berlin has been quick to respond to the complaint brandishing Delta’s claims regarding Air Serbia’s ownership as “unique” and “simply not true”. “Air Serbia’s application demonstrates that actual ownership and control of the carrier is maintained by Serbian citizens. There is nothing in any of Delta's answers or in any filings in these dockets that would indicate the government of Serbia questions the ownership and control of Air Serbia and Air Serbia maintains a current AOC as a Serbian carrier”, Air Berlin said in response to Delta. It concluded, “Air Berlin's proposed codeshare service between points in Germany and points in the US carrying Air Serbia’s code will infuse healthy competition to the market place. The Department has long held that competition is in the public interest”. The DoT is yet to approve the codeshare.
On Monday, Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) hailed the DoT’s decision to dismiss Air Serbia’s and Etihad’s codeshare application. “We are pleased that the DoT agreed with our view and dismissed this application. ALPA successfully made the case that a possible ownership/management relationship between Air Serbia and Etihad would provide effective control by Etihad and, thus, would not be in the public interest”. The national carrier of the United Arab Emirates, which yesterday secured a major inter-US codeshare deal to forty domestic destinations with JetBlue, responded to the motions filed against its subsidiary, “No US carrier, let alone Delta, directly serves the US-Serbia market, and no US carrier (save for Delta) opposed these applications”. It concluded, “Disapproving this application would not only put US policy on its head, but it also would send a negative signal to Serbia, which intends to join the European Union in the coming years, and which hopes to expand and develop its economy. Moreover, while Delta may be uncomfortable with Etihad as Air Serbia’s new investor, this is not grounds for disapproving the application”.
Whether Delta will be successful in its new motion to bar Air Serbia from codesharing on routes to the United States remains to be seen. Delta’s complaints also raise questions as to how the claims and the DoT’s recent ruling could impact Air Serbia’s plans to launch transatlantic flights in 2016. EX-YU Aviation News will continue to monitor the development of this case.