Flights between Belgrade and the Kazakh capital of Astana are expected to launch in the lead-up to the 2017 Expo, a major bi-annual international exposition which begins next June. It comes after the two countries signed a Memorandum of Cooperation in the aviation sector on the sidelines of the Kazakh - Serbian business forum held yesterday. The Chairman of the Air Serbia Supervisory Board and the Mayor of Belgrade, Siniša Mali, said, "We hope that conditions are met for Air Serbia to launch nonstop flights to Astana so we can further link our two nations and people, as well as work on boosting trade and tourism". It is the second time Mr Mali has talked up the prospects of flights between the two capital cities following initial comments made in late August. If the service goes ahead, it would likely operate on a seasonal basis.
The Kazakh Minister for Transport and Communications, Jenis Kasymbek, said, "Today we signed a memorandum for the opening of direct flights between Astana and Belgrade. We expect the service to commence in the lead-up to Expo, during the summer of 2017". Kazakhstan has designated its national airline, Air Astana, as a possible operating carrier on the route, while Serbia selected its own flag carrier. The upcoming Expo is estimated to bring in between two and three million visitors to Astana next year. As a result, Finnair has announced it will introduce seasonal summer flights from Helsinki to the Kazakh capital next June. Serbian citizens do not require a visa to enter Kazakhstan. Furthermore, Serbia is one of only a handful of European countries that do not require Kazakhstani passport holders entry visas.
Several European carriers currently fly to Astana. They include Aeroflot, Belavia, KLM, Lufthansa, Ukraine International Airlines and Greece's Ellinair. Furthermore, Air Serbia's part-owner Etihad Airways maintains services to the city. Currently, none of the national carriers from the former Yugoslavia operate flights to central Asia. Apart from potential transfer passengers, services between Belgrade and Kazakhstan could cater for Serbian workers and engineers who are involved in the development of several major infrastructure projects in the country, although whether this could be enough to turn the potential service into reality remains to be seen. In a recent interview, Air Serbia's CEO, Dane Kondić, said the airline saw potential in markets such as Central Asia. Slovenia's Adria Airways is also reported to be looking into the possibility of operating flights to Kazakhstan in the near future.
Planned Niš flight announcement
A planned announcement of the arrival of a third carrier at Niš Constantine the Great Airport, which was reported on earlier during the day by EX-YU Aviation News and set to be announced today, has been cancelled and postponed for a later date