|Belgrade - US flights within reach|
The Serbian government has approved a Bilateral Air Service Agreement with the United States yesterday, which will regulate traffic between the two countries, marking an important development in Air Serbia’s ambitions to fly to the States. It comes after the Serbian Civil Aviation Directorate and the United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reached a principle agreement last November on all disputed provisions of a 1977 Bilateral Air Service Agreement between the two. The Serbian government says the agreement will be ratified “soon”. The country’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Construction, Transport and Infrastructure, Zorana Mihajlović, will act as a signatory on Serbia’s behalf.
In a statement, the Serbian government said, “The Ministry for Construction, Transport and Infrastructure has made it possible for the national carrier to become the first airline in the region to operate flights to the United State after almost sixteen years. This agreement is the fulfilment of one of the national airline's most important development goals and will boost economic cooperation between the two countries, generate employment and lead to the development of airport infrastructure, as it will initiate the construction of another runway and passenger terminal”. It continues, “All of this will boost Air Serbia’s brand, while Belgrade Nikola Tesla Airport will become more attractive to potential investors and a regional hub, which will in turn significantly boost exports to the United States”.
Earlier this month, the President of the Supervisory Board of Air Serbia, Siniša Mali, said the airline will launch flights from Belgrade to New York, Chicago and Toronto in early 2016, describing it as a “crowning moment” for the airline. Air Serbia’s CEO, Dane Kondić, said last month that he hopes the carrier will launch transatlantic flights within the next twelve to fourteen months. During a visit to the Serbian capital last year, the President and CEO of Etihad Airways and Vice Chairman of Air Serbia, James Hogan, mentioned that transatlantic flights will operate from Belgrade with an Airbus A330 aircraft if the numbers stack up. “Once flights begin, the Airbus A330 will be used. Etihad has the type in its fleet and it can be transferred to Air Serbia. It’s important for the numbers to stack up and for us to choose the right moment and be ready. Regardless of whether flights launch in 2015 or 2016, we have to set off all that is necessary on the US market, such as tour operators and public relations, because it is important to distinguish the company apart from the former Jat”, Mr. Hogan said. He added, “We are not aiming for our guests to be only Serbs visiting relatives and friends in their homeland but also others such as tourists and businesspeople who will fly with Air Serbia”.
During 2014, the FAA upgraded Serbia from a category two to a category one status, allowing airlines registered in Serbia to operate flights to the US. The upgrade does not grant the national carrier or any other airline from Serbia automatic rights to operate services to the United States. After the Air Service Agreement is signed between the two countries, Air Serbia will have to apply for a license with the US Department of Transport in order to be given necessary permits to launch flights.
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