|Serbia and Turkey to continue talks on slot allocation|
Serbian and Turkish aviation authorities have failed to reach an agreement regarding slot allocations following talks in Belgrade. The two sides are set to meet again by the end of the week to try and work out a deal. The deepening row threatens to limit Turkish Airlines and Pegasus Airlines flights from Istanbul to Belgrade after Turkish authorities refused to issue Air Serbia slots at Istanbul’s main airport, Ataturk, late last year, forcing the Serbian carrier to relocate to Sabiha Gokcen Airport which offers fewer transit options for passengers. Under a bilateral air agreement, designated airlines between Serbia and Turkey should operate the same amount of scheduled flights between the two countries. However, Turkish and Pegasus run 21 weekly rotations from Istanbul to Belgrade while Air Serbia operates only seven. Serbia has said it will begin strictly enforcing the bilateral agreement on a reciprocal basis and has further issued a warning it will allocate unfavourable slots to Turkish carriers at Belgrade Airport, which rely heavily on transit passengers, making departure and arrival times a key issue.
The Turkish Foreign Minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, visited Belgrade on Wednesday and weighed in on the issue. He said, “Balkan countries are like a family and we can solve problems by drinking a cup of Turkish, Serbian or Balkan coffee. There are so many features embellishing our relations that every kind of rift can be solved easily. The important point is to work with a future perspective. There are common benefits from transportation, including air transport, and we will discuss them". Commenting on the situation, Serbia’s Foreign Minister, Ivica Dačić, said, “The issue is in the hands of the appropriate ministries and the airlines themselves, but there is a joint interest in resolving the problem".
The Serbian Civil Aviation Directorate has issued both Turkish Airlines and Pegasus Airlines a temporary license to operate flights between Istanbul and Belgrade until July 1, after which services could be limited if issues persist. Hundreds of charter flights operating between Serbia and Turkey this summer remain unaffected by this row as they are not regulated by this agreement. Over the past few months, other airlines have also faced problems with slot allocations at Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport, which is becoming increasingly crowded as Turkish Airlines continues to expand and ideal arrival and departure times become scarce.