|Hogan: Air Serbia's New York service a "minimal investment"|
The Vice Chairman of Air Serbia and President and CEO of Etihad Airways, James Hogan, says Air Serbia could offer flights to Chicago and Toronto in two to three years after it establishes itself on the market with its planned five weekly service to New York, scheduled to commence this June. "We have already considered flights to Chicago and Toronto and these services could be introduced in two to three years. First off, the New York route must become functional. We don't want to make a decision that would set Air Serbia back", Mr Hogan says. The potential expansion of Air Serbia's network in North America would coincide with the arrival of the carrier's ten new Airbus A320neo jets. Mr Hogan's remarks are in contrast to those made by the Chairman of the Air Serbia Supervisory Board and the Mayor of Belgrade, Siniša Mali, who indicated that a second widebody aircraft could arrive by the end of the year to serve additional points in the United States and Canada. On the other hand, the Serbian Prime Minister has previously said that Beijing will likely become the airline's second long haul destination, following New York.
Emphasising the importance of the Etihad - Air Serbia partnership in relation to the latter's New York service, Mr Hogan notes, "Air Serbia never would have taken off to the US if it were not part of Etihad. Through this partnership, Air Serbia is able secure an aircraft, train its staff and receive technical assistance within our family. Therefore, the investment is minimal". Air Serbia's first widebody Airbus A330-200 aircraft will be leased from Etihad Airways' partner Jet Airways, with pilots undergoing training at Alitalia and cabin crew being coached by Etihad in Abu Dhabi. "This service opens up the opportunity for Serbia to develop its tourism. We would like to see Serbia establish Belgrade as the gateway to the Balkans. We want Americans to stay in Belgrade for a few days before maybe flying out to Athens", the CEO says. Starting February 1, Air Serbia will offer codeshare flights to New York, Chicago and Miami through its partner Air Berlin via Dusseldorf and the German capital.
Mr Hogan says that Air Serbia has become a leading carrier among small European airlines. "Jat was a broken brand. We have brought with us professionalism when it comes to safety, standards and services and have invested into the network, infrastructure and people. When we take a look at the Premium lounge, opened last year at Belgrade Airport, and flights to the United States, which will launch in June, we can conclude that these are very good results for the past two years", Mr Hogan says. He adds, "Serbia should be proud of those results. Practice shows that an effective national carrier, in cooperation with an effective airport, can become a major catalyst for the development of the national economy and contribute to creating new jobs. In short, Air Serbia is functional".