Air Serbia today officially announced it will launch its first long haul transatlantic flights from June 1, 2016. The carrier will run five weekly flights from Belgrade to New York with a leased two-cabin Airbus A330-200 aircraft. "The launch of non-stop flights between Belgrade and New York in June next year will be a hugely proud and significant moment in the short history of Air Serbia, demonstrating the growth and ambitions of the airline. We cannot underestimate the positive impact the new service will have on the people and businesses of Serbia as we open this air-bridge to the United States, which is home to so many Serbian communities who will now have a unique opportunity to fly to Serbia with the national airline", the Serbian Prime Minister, Aleksandar Vučić said. He noted that the A330-200 will likely be leased from an Indian carrier (presumably Etihad Airways Partner - Jet Airways). The President and CEO of Etihad Airways, as well as Vice-Chairman of the Air Serbia Supervisory Board, James Hogan, said, “In addition to creating a safe and commercially-sustainable airline, one of the pledges we made when Air Serbia was launched in 2013 was to re-connect Serbia with major Serbian population centres around the world. We are naturally delighted, therefore, to announce the launch of the New York service which, as well as enhancing business and cultural ties between the two countries, will provide a major boost to inbound tourism to Serbia. The new service shows one of the main strengths of Etihad Airways Partners. In launching this transatlantic service, Air Serbia can call upon the expertise and resources of pilot and cabin crew training, as well as fleet and engineering support”.
The CEO of Air Serbia, Dane Kondić, said the airline will offer five weekly flights to New York since the airline will initially lease a single A330-200. He noted that passengers will be offered flights via Berlin and Dusseldorf with Air Serbia's codeshare partner Air Berlin on the remaining two days when Air Serbia isn't be operating services with its own metal. He noted that the airline is expected to receive a permit for the flights from US authorities "any day now". “The launch of the Belgrade - New York non-stop service is a fantastic example of the positive impact of the Air Serbia strategic plan, which is progressing well and continues to be on-track to meet and surpass its targets. We have been asked for many months when a new United States service will start, and we are pleased now to reveal the destination and intended launch date and look forward to welcome guests onboard our flights between Belgrade and New York, offering them our world-famous Serbian cuisine and hospitality as they cross the Atlantic”, Mr Kondić noted. The transatlantic flights will be scheduled so as to offer quick connections for passengers from Southeast Europe and the Balkans.
• "The next long haul service could be Beijing. We talked about this", Mr Vučić says. Mr. Kondić adds, "We are expecting a permit to the USA any day now. We plan to fly 5 times per week to New York since we will have one A330 aircraft. On the other two days, we will offer codeshare flights with Air Berlin via Dusseldorf and Berlin".
• Head of the Air Serbia Supervisory Board, Siniša Mali, says, "Profits in 2015 up 30%". Serbian Prime Minister, Aleksandar Vučić, adds, "Flights to New York are a big success. We will have a good aircraft, the A330-200, which I assume we will lease from an Indian company. We are showing the new face of Serbia. I hope we Air Serbia will also buy another airline in the region".
• Etihad Airways CEO James Hogan says Jat Airways was in serious decline. "Today we have a leading airline in the Balkans. Revenue is up 103%. We need the people of Serbia to get behind their national carrier", Mr Hogan says.
• Air Serbia launching flights to New York in 2016 with Airbus A330-200 aircraft five times per week. The airline is in talks with aircraft leasing companies.
• Mr Kondić says, "I have one major piece of news for you today". Beforehand, he says the airline handled more than two million passengers during the first three quarters of 2015. Air Serbia's charter brand handled 110.000 passengers on some twenty destinations.
• Today's speakers include Air Serbia CEO Dane Kondić, Etihad Airways CEO James Hogan, Supervisory Board Chairman Siniša Mali and Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vučić.
• Etihad Airways CEO James Hogan will speak at the conference today.
• Press conference expected to start soon. A large number of Air Serbia and Etihad Airways staff present including crew from both companies.