|Serbia aims to resolve charter flight issues|
The Serbian Parliament has adopted changes to the country’s Air Transport Law which specifies tighter regulation for charter operators. It comes after two Turkish (Freebird and Corendon Airlines) and one Egyptian charter carrier (Nesma Airlines) were blocked from operating leisure flights to Belgrade by the Serbian Ministry for Construction, Transport and Infrastructure. According to the modified Air Transport Law, the Ministry will no longer have a say in which carrier is issued a license to operate flights. That decision will now firmly rest with the Serbian Civil Aviation Directorate (CAD). Previously, the CAD issued permits to charter airlines based on the advisory opinion of the Ministry. Tour operators have begun cancelling holiday packages with over 600 people already affected by the government’s decision to withhold permits from the abovementioned airlines. Operators have said the move is part of the government’ protectionist policy towards national carrier Air Serbia.
The Assistant Minister in charge of air transport, Zoran Ilić, says talks are underway with Turkish authorities to resolve the ongoing issue. However, Mr. Ilić also notes, “In previous years Serbian carriers expressed no interest to operate charter flights, which made it possible for anyone to fly to Serbia. Foreign carriers are well aware that there are certain procedures in place when it come to this market”. He adds, ”We have already started talks with the Turkish side and the results of those talks will lead to a solution”. The Minister for Construction, Transport and Infrastructure, Zorana Mihajlović, believes that tour operators are required to check whether airlines have been issued permits before selling travel packages. However, the law itself states that tour operators must first conclude agreements with charter airlines before they can apply for a permit.
The fallout from the government’s decision to block several charter carriers from operating services to the Serbian capital has not only put holiday plans at risk for thousands of travellers, but also threatened to impact passenger numbers at Belgrade Nikola Tesla Airport. “In previous years there were no clear guidelines for charter flights. The new law deals with this area in greater detail so it can no longer be interpreted in different ways”, Ms. Mihajlović says. Meanwhile, the new Air Transport Law has been criticised by Serbian pilots, more on which you can read here.