Flights between Beijing and Belgrade are set to begin next year after the Serbian government entered into talks with a yet-to-be named Chinese carrier over the matter on Wednesday. Speaking at a press conference yesterday, the Serbian Prime Minister, Aleksandar Vučić, said, "I can announce that we have started talks with a Chinese airline yesterday, which will begin flying to Serbia. Belgraders will soon have the opportunity to travel to Beijing". The comments came less than a month after the Chinese President, Xi Jinping, visited Serbia. Mr Vučić added, "I expect the service will be introduced before flights between Beijing and Zagreb are launched". Last week Beijing Capital Airlines, a subsidiary of Hainan Airlines, was granted regulatory approval to commence two weekly services from the Chinese capital to Zagreb starting June 2017.
Initial discussions over a possible air link between China and Serbia began in late 2013, when the then General Manager of Belgrade Airport, Velimir Radosavljević, told China Radio International there was a possibility for the Serbian capital to be linked with Beijing through Air China. In 2014, the two countries signed an Agreement for the Establishment of Air Traffic. Last year, Air Serbia began codesharing on Air China's services between Vienna and Beijing, while the Chinese national carrier placed its code onto Air Serbia's flights between Belgrade and the Austrian capital. Interest in flights to China has been growing throughout the region. Apart from the planned service between Beijing and Zagreb, the Slovenian government has also expressed its interest in linking the two countries with a scheduled air service, while a Chinese investor is in the process of purchasing a stake in the operator of Maribor Airport and has promised both passenger and cargo flights to China.
The last time a Chinese airline operated flights to Belgrade was prior to the collapse of the former Yugoslavia. Services were initially launched from Beijing in the early 1980s by Air China’s predecessor CAAC and were operated with a Boeing 707 via Karachi. Later on, flights were introduced from Urumqi via Budapest. On the other hand, JAT Yugoslav Airlines operated its final service to Beijing in late 2000. The airline resumed three weekly flights to the Chinese capital in the late 1990s and maintained services with a DC-10 aircraft.