|Charter spat between Turkey and Serbia continues|
Turkish authorities are yet to respond to a permit request lodged by Air Serbia in order for its dedicated charter brand Aviolet to operate leisure flights to the country this summer. It comes after the Serbian Ministry for Construction, Transport and Infrastructure blocked two Turkish charter carriers - Freebird Airlines and Corendon Airlines - from running services to Belgrade. A handful of tour operators affected by the decision have accused the Ministry of protectionist policies and measures. According to the daily “Večernje novosti”, only Turkish Airlines has so far received necessary permits to operate holiday flights between Turkey and Serbia. Its Antalya - Belgrade charters are scheduled to launch once per week from May 23 and will increase to six weekly services from mid-June through to mid-September.
The Serbian Ministry for Construction, Transport and Infrastructure says that a total of 114.680 seats were to be offered on charter flights between the two countries this summer. Of those, 90.096 seats were to be provided by Turkish carriers. However, the Ministry claims that Air Serbia should have the upper hand since it is transporting Serbian holidaymakers. It believes that only if the carrier does not have the necessary capacity or interest should foreign airlines step in. Serbian tour operators claim that Air Serbia does not have the requested capacity to exclusively carry out charters to Turkey. The airline plans to offer 19.584 seats on leisure flights to the country this season if it is issued a permit. “At this point we have 10.000 travellers affected by the Ministry’s decision and it is very uncomforting not knowing what will happen to these passengers”, one of the hardest hit tour operators, Argus Tours, said in a statement. The Serbian Ministry has also blocked Egyptian charter carrier Nesma Airlines from operating flights between Hurghada and Belgrade.
For its part, the Ministry has rejected claims of protectionism. “More often than not the media are trying to portray that the Ministry is protecting Air Serbia which is not true because we do not have another carrier. Out of the 114.000 seats requested between the two countries, only 19.000 are by our airline, which is more than 80% in favour of the Turkish side. When charters are concerned, such a trend must be completely reversed”, Assistant Minister and the former head of security at Belgrade Airport, Zoran Ilić, says. The State Tourist Inspection body, which supervises the implementation and enforcement of laws and other regulations in the tourism sector, says tour operators have the right to conclude agreements with foreign charter carriers and have not acted outside of the law. As EX-YU Aviation News understands, both Corendon Airlines and Nesma Airlines have resubmitted their requests to operate charter flights to Belgrade this summer.