Air Serbia is preparing for its inaugural service between Belgrade and New York in three days time, with the United States Department of Transportation (DoT) recently clearing the Serbian carrier to use Etihad Airways' jets on the route, if required, and for the Emirati airline to codeshare on the service. The American regulator has given a statement of authorisation that allows Etihad to wet-lease Air Serbia an appropriate widebody aircraft on an as-needed basis for a period of one year. The Emirati carrier states it would wet-lease an Airbus A330 or A340 to Air Serbia if the need arises. In support of the wet-lease arrangement, the government of the United Arab Emirates has indicated that it will grant US carriers reciprocal authority to operate to the UAE pursuant to a fifth, sixth or seventh freedom wet-lease with a third party. Air Serbia's CEO, Dane Kondić, has previously said that Etihad is prepared to dispatch an A340-500 in case of a technical issue with the Serbian carrier's sole A330-200, which will operate five weekly return flights between Belgrade and New York.
Etihad has also been granted approval to codeshare on Air Serbia's flights to the Big Apple for an indefinite period of time. The carrier will only be marketing the Abu Dhabi - New York services and will not sell tickets on the local US - Serbia market. Initially, Air Serbia will carry the "EY" designator code on flights between Belgrade and New York, but has also been granted blanket Open Skies codesharing authority, allowing Etihad to place its flight numbers on any new destination the Serbian carrier may launch to the United States sometime in the future.
Air Serbia's A330 tour of the region, which has taken place over the past two weeks with revenue flights to Podgorica, Banja Luka, Zagreb and Skopje, will come to an end tomorrow morning. The aircraft will then be prepared for its first transatlantic service on Air Serbia's behalf on Thursday morning. The airline is expected to host an official ceremony marking the start of its long haul operations on Wednesday, while a similar event is expected to take place in New York following the maiden service. Flights to New York will mark the first time a Belgrade-based company has operated the route in 24 years and the first time the Serbian capital and the largest city in the United States have been linked with a direct air service in twelve years.