|Serbia-Turkey aviation row comes to an end|
Serbian and Turkish aviation authorities have resolved a row over slot allocations which will see Air Serbia resume services to Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport. Following talks in Belgrade last week, which culminated in an agreement in Ankara on Monday, Istanbul Ataturk Airport issued Air Serbia its requested slots. Furthermore, Turkish Airlines will have to reduce its number of flights on services between Istanbul and Belgrade from its current seventeen per week to fourteen flights per week, or two daily. Low cost airline Pegasus, which runs services from Istanbul’s second airport, Sabiha Gokcen, will maintain four weekly flights between the two cities.
Problems between Serbian and Turkish aviation authorities erupted late last year when Ataturk Airport issued Air Serbia highly unattractive early morning slots, which the Serbian carrier found unacceptable. As a result, it relocated to Sabiha Gokcen which offers fewer transfer options for passengers, which Air Serbia aims to attract. Furthermore, the airline lost its competitive edge against Turkish Airlines, which has been further illustrated by declining passenger numbers on the route. Air Serbia has been attempting to return to Ataturk ever since but has received no reply from the airport operator. The allocation of unfavourable slots coincided with Jat Airways’ transition into Air Serbia. Earlier this month the Serbian Civil Aviation Directorate threatened to put into practice the current bilateral air agreement between Serbia and Turkey, which would have forced Turkish Airlines to limit its services to Belgrade to a maximum of only seven flights per week.
The decision to issue Air Serbia its requested slots at Ataturk Airport can be viewed as a coup for the national carrier. The airline is expected to make an announcement of its switch from Sabiha Gokcen to Ataturk soon and will maintain seven weekly flights to the city. On the other hand, it is believed Turkish Airlines will reduce its frequencies from the start of the 2014/15 winter season which begins in late October. Turkey’s Foreign Minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, who visited Belgrade last week and commented on the aviation row, played a key role in resolving the issue.
Adria Airways and B&H Airlines are the only two other national carriers from the former Yugoslavia with flights to Istanbul Ataturk Airport. Adria Airways holds similar slots to those offered to Air Serbia with arrival into Istanbul at 02.50 local time. On the other hand, B&H Airlines arrives in Istanbul at 13.30.