The Serbian Prime Minister, Aleksandar Vučić, has confirmed plans for the introduction of flights between Belgrade and Beijing in 2017 after announcing the forthcoming abolishment of visa restrictions between the two countries. Mr Vučić said the move will fuel travel between Serbia and China and bring forward the introduction of flights between the two countries. "Serbia will authorise visa free travel for Chinese nationals, while the Chinese have given consent to abolish visas for Serbian citizens. This is a fantastic development which will result in the speedy opening of new flights between Beijing and Belgrade and I also believe Shanghai and Belgrade. This will also allow us to further boost our business ties", the Prime Minister said. It comes three months after Mr Vučić announced that the Serbian government had entered into talks with a Chinese carrier to launch services to Belgrade in 2017.
Serbia and China signed an Agreement for the Establishment of Air Traffic in 2014. Air Serbia currently codeshares with Air China on its flight between Beijing and Vienna. Furthermore, the airline also has special prorate agreements (SPA) on all of Etihad Airways' flights out of China, as well as SPA’s with China Southern, Xiamen Airlines and Hainan Airlines. Last month, Air Serbia's CEO, Dane Kondić, said that China will play an important role in the airline's continued expansion, noting that the market represents a critical step in the company's growth in Asia. The Chairman of the Air Serbia Supervisory Board, Siniša Mali, said in September, "Belgrade is becoming the region’s hub. If we manage to introduce flights to Beijing, it will strengthen our position and a service to Tehran will then also become fully justified".
Chinese citizens currently require visas to enter all European countries with exception to San Marino. Those with residency in a European Union member state or the United States are free to enter Serbia without a visa. The last time a Chinese carrier operated services to Belgrade was prior to the collapse of the former Yugoslavia. Flights were initially launched from Beijing in 1978 by Air China’s predecessor CAAC and were operated with a Boeing 707 via Karachi (and for a short period of time via Tehran). Later on, services were introduced from Urumqi via Budapest. On the other hand, JAT Yugoslav Airlines launched Beijing in 1979 and operated its final flight to the city in late 2000.