Air China has said it is interested in launching flights to Belgrade, noting that a future service to the Serbian capital is looking "very promising". Speaking to EX-YU Aviation News, representatives from the Chinese national carrier at the Belgrade Tourism Fair said, "Air China flights to Belgrade are looking very promising at the moment. Presently, we don't exactly know the launch date or times. It all depends on an agreement between the Serbian Prime Minister and our Prime Minister. We hope to spread our wings to Belgrade very soon. That's why we are here". The Chinese carrier featured its own stand at the Tourism Fair for the first time last week, manned mostly by representatives from its Budapest office.
Last Friday, the Serbian Prime Minister said that a privately owned Chinese carrier would launch flights between Beijing and Belgrade, which would put the state-owned Air China out of contention for the service. However, state officials have previously noted that two routes out of China are currently being negotiated - one from Beijing and the other from Shanghai. The possible resumption of flights between the two countries after almost two decades is expected to be announced next month during the state visit of the outgoing Serbian President to China.
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. The following 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. 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 1972 by Air China’s predecessor CAAC and were operated with an Ilyushin Il-62 via Karachi. Later on, the flights were upgraded to a Boeing 707 and later a B767. Services continued on to Budapest and Zurich, depending on the year of operation.