All Nippon Airways (ANA) has expressed initial interest in operating flights between Japan and Belgrade. As EX-YU Aviation News learns, contact has been made between the two sides although no concrete agreement has been reached at this point. While early interest may not necessarily result in flights, it is the first time a Japanese carrier has mulled potential operations to Serbia. It comes just weeks after the National Tourism Organisation of Serbia held talks in Tokyo with Japanese tour operators, the country’s tourism board, as well as the Japan International Cooperation Agency and the Japan-Southeast Europe Business Association in a bid to boost travel between the two countries.
As Japan’s largest carrier, ANA is no stranger to the region. This summer, the airline operated six charter flights to Ljubljana and four to Dubrovnik from various cities including Tokyo, Sendai, Osaka and Nagoya with Boeing 777-200 aircraft. The flights were chartered by Japan’s largest tour operator which sold combined packages to Slovenia and Croatia and catered for some 1.250 travellers to each country. The flights ran in late August and early September. Several years ago, JAL Japan Airlines also operated summer charters to Zagreb with Boeing 747 aircraft. Package tours make up the largest segment of all Japanese travellers.
Serbia and Japan enjoy a visa free regime, where both Serbian and Japanese nationals can travel to each others’ countries for up to ninety days without the need to acquire a visa. In 2015, there were 5.196 Japanese tourist arrivals in Serbia, which, although light, was still ahead of arrivals from much closer markets such as Portugal, Finland and Ireland. Lately, there has been increased interest in the region from the Far East with Beijing Capital Airlines to launch flights to Zagreb next summer, while an unnamed Chinese carrier also plans to link Beijing and Belgrade in 2017. Services between Shanghai and the Serbian capital are also being considered. Furthermore, the Slovenian government has also said it is lobbying for a direct service between Ljubljana and China.