Serbia's national carrier is today marking its third anniversary since relaunching as Air Serbia on October 26, 2013. As it enters its fourth year, the airline has promised new innovations and announcements in the months to come. "As we enter our fourth year, we are committed to pushing the boundaries further when it comes to our products and services. As part of this we are especially looking forward to switching to the Sabre reservation system in early 2017, which will enable us to introduce many exciting innovations. When we launched Air Serbia, our vision was to be the best airline in Southeast Europe, and to do that we placed a huge emphasis on guest experience", Air Serbia's CEO, Dane Kondić, told the airline's magazine publication.
The carrier has remained tight-lipped on its future plans but has revealed its intention to commence services to Tehran in 2017. "Introducing these flights during the upcoming winter season is not possible, but they are likely next summer. If we do introduce Belgrade - Tehran flights, Air Serbia will have to fly in partnership with Iran Air", Mr Kondić said last month. Meanwhile, the carrier's Chairman, Siniša Mali, noted, "We are considering flights to Canada, Chicago and some other destinations. We are undertaking analysis but no decision has been made. However, it is certainly a logical continuation for Air Serbia's future development. When you have one wide body aircraft, then you open up the possibility to have another one", Mr Mali said. He added, "Of course we are thinking of moving forward with our partner Etihad Airways, but I do not want to make any presumptions. When we make a concrete decision we will announce our plans". During 2016 the carrier introduced long haul flights to New York and its first wide body aircraft, the A330-200. As part of its new product offering, the carrier rolled out a new in-flight entertainment system, available across its jet-engine fleet, as well as an in-flight nanny service on its New York flights. Furthermore, Air Serbia commenced four new seasonal routes this summer, one of which has been extended into the winter months as well.
The President and CEO of the Etihad Aviation Group, James Hogan, says Air Serbia's part-owner, Etihad Airways, is planning on a long-term partnership with its Serbian counterpart. "We see more opportunity over the next five years to do more long haul flying. However, to be successful in long haul flying you have to develop a destination and tourism strategy and cooperate with stakeholders. In aviation terms, it's about the mix of traffic. We have transfer traffic and destination traffic. Today it's probably more destination traffic among Serbians and ethnic traffic coming back. We want to bring in more holiday traffic, more leisure travellers and more business travellers through the system". He added, "I have every confidence that as the airport is upgraded, as the destination becomes more known all over the world, we can grow more the long haul element of Air Serbia in the next five years". In the coming year, Air Serbia will also have to address the replacement of its regional fleet.
Since its relaunch in 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 rolled out 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. However, in 2017, Air Serbia also faces growing competition at home. Wizz Air is set to base a second aircraft and launch new routes out of Belgrade next year, while low cost competition has been growing at nearby Niš Airport as well.