|Air Serbia plans further product innovations and promises "exciting announcements"|
Serbia's national carrier is today marking its second anniversary since relaunching as Air Serbia on October 26, 2013. As it enters its third year, the airline promises new innovations and announcements in the weeks and months to come. Since 2013, the Serbian carrier has doubled in size compared to its predecessor, introduced a handful of new routes, upgraded its fleet with eight Airbus A319s, two A320s and one ATR72 aircraft, with ten A320neos on order, and introduced a wide array of new services including a new frequent flyer program, a dedicated Premium Lounge in Belgrade, web check-in and on board Internet connectivity. Air Serbia's CEO, Dane Kondić, told the airline's magazine publication, "We embarked on a new journey two years ago and since then we have seen continuous improvements across the board, while the products and services that Air Serbia provides to its guests are incomparable to those of its predecessor - the in-flight experience has become world class with upgraded interiors for an upgraded fleet, improved catering services and increased options for our guests". He added, "The rebirth of Serbia's national airline is continuing unabated and we are now focusing on delivering the best possible guest experience".
Over the past year, the airline's area of focus has been improving its load factor, with the carrier anticipating handling 2.5 million passengers this year. However, Air Serbia slashed its frequencies to a number of destinations this winter and suspended two routes altogether. “It was always envisaged that we would go hard at trying to drive our load factor. Last year we closed at 70% load factor. It shows there is plenty of room to grow in the existing network”, Mr Kondić said recently. He added, “Unless there are specific opportunities that present themselves, we really need to go fitter and faster with what we have. Once we get to that 80% plus average load factor, then we can look at expansion”. The Serbian carrier reported a net profit of 2.7 million euros and 262 million euros worth of revenue in 2014. The airline's CEO expects even better results in 2015. “We will improve our profit and are on target to improve our passenger numbers”, he said.
However, it hasn’t all been smooth sailing for the airline. Critics have accused the Serbian government of signing a costly partnership agreement with Etihad, where the government has to fork out much more than its counterpart and take on significant commitments. Meanwhile, low cost airline Wizz Air has labelled Air Serbia and Etihad Airways as “wannabe monopolists”. Furthermore, the European Commission is investigating Air Serbia's ownership structure as part of a wider examination into whether foreign ownership of European carriers complies with EU airline licensing rules. Despite this, Air Serbia's majority shareholder, the government, has urged the carrier to launch transatlantic flights by the end of the first quarter in 2016, as originally outlined two years ago. The airline has stayed quiet on the issue. However, Mr Kondić concludes, "Other product innovations and exciting announcements are set to follow".