|Serbia to renegotiate bilateral air agreement with the US|
Serbia is readying for the resumption of transatlantic flights to the United States for the first time in over a decade. Much of the focus so far has been on bureaucratic procedures. The country was recently upgraded from a category two to a category one status by the United Stated Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), allowing airlines registered in Serbia to operate flights to the US. However, the upgrade does not grant the national carrier, or any other airline from Serbia, rights to operate services to the United States by default. James Hogan, the President and CEO of Etihad Airways and the Vice-Chairman of Air Serbia, recently confirmed flights from Belgrade to the US will operate with an Airbus A330 aircraft but warned, “For that to happen all conditions must be met and the numbers must stack up”. Chicago is tipped to be Air Serbia’s first destination in the States, to launch in late 2015 or during the 2016 summer season.
The Serbian Civil Aviation Directorate says the two countries must now renegotiate a bilateral air agreement in order for Air Serbia to launch flights to the United States. “Granting a category one status to operators registered in the Republic of Serbia opens an opportunity to establish direct flights to US and apply for approval from the US Department of Transport”, the Directorate says. It adds, “The category one approval is a tremendous recognition and an indication that the civil aviation sector in Serbia meets the highest safety standards both in Europe and the US. The next step will be to sign a modified bilateral air services agreement between Serbia and the US”. Last week the Serbian Prime Minister and the US Ambassador to Serbia discussed the possibility of concluding an Open Skies agreement between the two countries. The agreement would allow any airline from Serbia and any airline from the United States to fly between any point in Serbia and any point in the US. Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro concluded such agreements with the US in 2005 and 2011 respectively. Slovenia and Croatia, as part of the European Union, enjoy such rights, while Macedonia has applied for Open Skies in 2012 based on comity and reciprocity.
The acting CEO of Belgrade Nikola Tesla Airport, Saša Vlaisavljević, said on Monday the airport is also preparing for the resumption of flights to the United States. “With the planned development in infrastructure, the airport will be ready for the announced long haul flights and will have the ability to handle an even greater number of transfer passengers. Our most important task is to upgrade our infrastructure and take advantage of Air Serbia’s strong growth. We will provide even greater logistical support to our national carrier so that it can become the most successful in this part of Europe”, Mr. Vlaisavljević said. The last time Serbia was linked with the US was in 2004 when Uzbekistan Airways operated flights from Belgrade to New York for a short period of time.