|Air China likely to launch Belgrade flights|
Air China could launch flights from Beijing to Belgrade in cooperation with Air Serbia, the CEO of Serbia’s national carrier, Dane Kondić, has said. The news comes a day ahead of the third annual summit of Chinese and Central and Eastern European leaders, which will take place in Belgrade on December 16 and 17. Speaking to the Chinese “Xinhua” news agency, Mr. Kondić said, “We are in the middle of concluding a codeshare partnership with Air China. We want to, they want to, and it is only a matter of finalising the details. We don't have wide-body aircraft in our fleet, so we are looking for an opportunity to work and partner up with a Chinese carrier”.
Initial discussion of a possible air link between China and Serbia began in late 2013, when the then CEO of Belgrade Airport, Velimir Radosavljević, told China Radio International there was a possibility for the Serbian capital to be linked with Beijing through Air China. In August 2014, the Serbian Civil Aviation Directorate signed a Memorandum of Understanding with its Chinese counterpart after talks, which were attended by both Air Serbia and Air China. The CEO of Serbia’s national carrier added, "We are always open to explore areas for further cooperation with our Chinese brothers", revealing that he will visit China in the first quarter of 2015 to meet with representatives from the civil aviation sector, banks, airlines and airplane manufacturers. Mr. Kondić also confirmed that he will attend the upcoming meeting between China and Central and Eastern European countries as well as a business forum in Belgrade, to be attended by 200 Chinese businessmen, where he hopes to meet representatives from several Chinese airlines and aircraft producers.
The last time a Chinese airline operated flights to Belgrade was prior to the collapse of the former Yugoslavia. Flights were initially launched from Beijing in the early 1980s by Air China’s predecessor CAAC and were operated with a Boeing 707 via Karachi. Later on, services were introduced from Urumqi via Budapest. On the other hand, JAT Yugoslav Airlines operated its final service to Beijing in late 2000. The airline resumed three weekly flights to the Chinese capital in the late 1990s and maintained services with a DC-10.