|Serbian Aviation Directorate denies flight permits to charter airlines|
The Serbian Civil Aviation Directorate has refused to issue permits to several foreign charter airlines seeking to operate flights to Belgrade this summer season. These include Corendon and Freebird from Turkey, as well as Nesma Airlines from Egypt. Furthermore, Air Cairo, which runs scheduled year-long flights from Hurghada to Belgrade, has also been denied rights to introduce an additional weekly service on the route. Serbian tour operators, which have signed agreements with the abovementioned carriers, have been forced to cancel holiday packages. Passengers due to fly out from Belgrade to Hurghada tomorrow morning with Nesma Airlines have had their flight cancelled. The Serbian Civil Aviation Directorate says it issues permits to charter carriers based on the advisory opinion of the Serbian Ministry for Construction, Transport and Infrastructure. “Three carriers did not receive the approval from the Ministry, and have been automatically refused by the Directorate”, the regulator said in a statement.
On the other hand, three foreign national carriers have secured rights to operate charter flights between their respective countries and Belgrade. They include Turkish Airlines, which will operate charter services from Antalya, Aegean Airlines from Heraklion, Rhodes and Corfu, and Tunis Air from Monastir. Air Serbia’s dedicated charter brand, Aviolet, will cater for the bulk of holiday makers this year, operating flights to five countries - Turkey, Greece, Italy, Spain and Egypt - covering a total of nineteen destinations. The Ministry is adamant that foreign charter carriers (all three of them) did not send in the necessary documentation required to be issued a permit, despite doing so for several years. At the same time, the Assistant Minister, Zoran Ilić, says he is certain Air Serbia has the necessary capacity to cater for any charter flights. He added that tour operators should first check whether airlines have been issued permits to operate charter services before concluding agreements with them. Mr. Ilić said that he is certain all problems would be “resolved soon”.
Serbian tour operators have hit back at the Ministry. In a press release, the “1 A Travel” tour operator said, “Despite Mr. Ilić being the Assistant Minister for Construction, Transport and Infrastructure, he has shown a lack of knowledge in his line of work. Based on the rules for issuing permits for the transport of passengers, the Directorate requires tour operators to have concluded agreements with foreign airlines. Without it, the Directorate will not issue permits”. Furthermore, the tour operator refuted Mr. Ilić’s claims regarding Air Serbia’s readiness to operate charter services. “Tour operators would gladly conclude agreements with Air Serbia if the company were ready to meet market demands and conditions. Our national carrier has four Boeing 737-300 aircraft dedicated for charter operations, which have a capacity of no more than 144 seats. Based on our bookings, we require an aircraft with the capacity to seat between 180 and 215 passengers, which Air Serbia cannot offer”, the press release reads.
Last Thursday, representatives from the Turkish Civil Aviation Authority held talks with their Serbian counterpart in Belgrade in an attempt to resolve the issue. At the meeting, the Serbian Directorate urged Turkish carriers to resubmit their license requests. However, as time passes by, holiday makers are becoming increasingly worried, with airline permits threatening to derail their holiday plans.