Air Serbia will post a profit for a third consecutive year, the Chairman of the company's Supervisory Board, Siniša Mali, has said, despite increased pressure on costs caused by the launch of transatlantic flights. Speaking in an interview broadcast on national television, Mr Mali said, "It is still unofficial since the financial results have not been released yet but we turned a profit last year in spite of flights to New York, which was the crowning moment of three years of hard work". Mr Mali did not specify the amount of profit the airline recorded in 2016. Air Serbia’s annual financial statements for the previous year, which are independently audited by KPMG in accordance with International Auditing Standards, are usually published between March and May.
Air Serbia posted a 3.9 million euro net profit in 2015. During 2016 the airline launched long haul flights to New York, which undoubtedly had an impact on its business. While the carrier has been encouraged by better than expected passenger demand and revenue from cargo on the route, it has been indicated that the service would likely generate losses during the first two years of operations. Last week, the carrier conceded that yields on the route have not performed as hoped for, due to less Americans travelling to Europe for fear of terror attacks. During 2016, the airline began paying for a number of services at Belgrade Nikola Tesla Airport, which it had previously been exempt from under a takeover agreement between Etihad Airways and the Serbian government.
Mr Mali said that with the airline continuing to turn a profit, it is also establishing Belgrade Airport as a regional hub. "Air Serbia is the only national airline out of eleven countries in the region to operate nonstop flights to North America. As a result, Air Serbia, Belgrade Airport and the city of Belgrade benefit from this service. If we are able to finalise talks with China, we will have nonstop flights to one or two Chinese cities. Belgrade is becoming a hub in the aviation sector in this part of Europe", Mr Mali noted. During 2016, Air Serbia's passenger numbers rose to some 2.7 million. In a recent statement, the airline's part-owner, Etihad Airways, said, "Etihad is and remains fully committed to Air Serbia and to the strategic partnership with Air Serbia’s majority owner, the Government of Serbia. Since its relaunch, just over three years ago, Serbia’s national airline has been transformed into a profitable, sustainable, and best-in-class, airline”.