|Etihad CEO looks back at Air Serbia’s first year and reveals future plans|
The President and CEO of Etihad Airways, as well as Vice-Chairman of Air Serbia, James Hogan, has summed up the carrier’s first year of operations as a "success story". Attending the airline’s Supervisory Board meeting in Belgrade, Mr. Hogan said that by repositioning Serbia’s national carrier and accepting change, Air Serbia will record a profit by the end of the year, labelling this as an “extraordinary” feat. “To compete globally, you have to figure out how to find partners. When it comes to Serbia, I know the region, I used to work with JAT in Australia. We looked at Belgrade’s geographical position as a crossroads in the Balkans and felt that we had the opportunity in Europe to connect Abu Dhabi with Serbia and beyond”, Mr. Hogan said. He added, “We employed a similar model as we did with Air Seychelles. We had to rebuild the business, which meant eliminating the past, bringing in a fleet of good planes and applying sound financial practice. However, I had to be certain we could return Air Serbia to profitability”.
Commenting on Air Serbia’s future outlook, Mr. Hogan said, “It is important for Serbia to continue building its brand in the aviation industry. We will open the airline’s new head office in Belgrade. Air Serbia has the opportunity to become the number one airline in the Balkans. We are working closely with our stakeholders, as well as Jat Tehnika, and we also plan to open new premises at Belgrade Airport. We are focused on investing in our people, services, improved aircraft utilisation, promoting our brand, cost savings and improving traffic flow through Belgrade Airport”. Etihad’s CEO also affirmed plans for Air Serbia to launch long haul flights to the United States. “We plan on reintroducing flights from Belgrade to the United States. It is important that everything we do is commercially viable, that every new destination we launch is profitable. For our flights to the United States it is necessary to reach an agreement with their respective authorities”, Mr. Hogan noted
Responding to public criticism over the potentially costly deal the government made with Etihad for the latter’s part-takeover of Jat Airways, Mr. Hogan said, “What was the alternative? For there to be no national carrier at all. That vacuum would have been filled by Ryanair, easyJet, Wizz Air or whoever. In my opinion, what we have now is a strong national airline whose aircraft fly across Europe and to Abu Dhabi. A successful carrier acts as an ambassador, something people in Serbia should be proud of. We have employed over 300 people and are moving towards profitability”, Mr. Hogan concluded.