|Air Serbia bids for entry into US market|
Air Serbia has requested a foreign air carrier permit from the United States that, if granted, would enable the airline to provide scheduled and charter foreign air transportation of persons, property and mail on any and all routes authorised pursuant to the new US - Serbia Open Skies Agreement. In its application, the airline says it will first provide services to the United States in a codeshare agreement with Air Berlin via Germany, and could eventually offer its own flights. It marks the second time the airline has requested codeshare rights, after it was rejected by American authorities in October 2013, following strong opposition from Delta Air Lines. As a result, this latest application, and the response it receives from the United States Department of Transport (DoT), will be closely monitored, as it will indicate possible opposition from carriers and other groups.
Air Serbia is seeking to be granted rights to place its “JU” designator code and flight numbers onto Air Berlin’s services from Berlin to Chicago, Miami and New York JFK, as well as from Dusseldorf to the Big Apple. In its application, the Serbian carrier says, “While Air Serbia initially proposes to provide scheduled air service from Belgrade to New York, Chicago and Miami pursuant to a codeshare arrangement with Air Berlin, Serbia's recent achievement of Category 1 status under the FAA's International Air Safety Assessment Program makes it possible for Air Serbia eventually to provide its own service to the United States”. It adds, “Air Serbia is fully qualified to provide this service, which will inject important new competition into the US - Serbia air transport market, and will be fully consistent with the public interest”.
In its application, Air Serbia claims the flights are in the public interest and that allowing it to operate its own services will boost competition. “The new US - Serbia Open Skies Agreement, and the broader public interest, strongly supports a decision to grant Air Serbia the requested authority. At present, only a single US carrier, United Airlines, holds out a scheduled service to Serbia, via a codeshare with its European alliance partners. Allowing Air Serbia to offer its own scheduled service to the United States would be consistent with the Agreement, and inject an important new competitive option in the market”, the airline says in its filing.
In October 2013, Delta Air Lines appealed to the DoT to reject a codeshare agreement between Air Serbia (then Jat Airways) and Etihad Airways on flights from Abu Dhabi to the US. At the time it said the two carriers had not been candid with the Department concerning Etihad’s ownership interest and effective control of Jat. It later filed a separate docket against the approval of codeshare flights between Air Berlin and Air Serbia on services from Germany to New York and Chicago. Etihad responded to these allegations by saying, “No US carrier, let alone Delta, directly serves the US - Serbia market, and no US carrier (save for Delta) opposed these applications. It is essential to note that even though US carrier interest in these applications may be limited, the interests of Serbia and Abu Dhabi are not”.
Aviation authorities from the United States will perform their final checks on Serbia’s readiness to handle transatlantic flights this September. Late last month, the Serbian government said that Air Serbia will launch flights to the United Stated towards the end of the year or during the first quarter of 2016. “The launch date depends both on the airline and airport, not their technical capabilities, as they are already prepared, but rather on market conditions. With all certainty we can expect these flights to commence either at the end of the year or in the first quarter of 2016”, the government said.