Serbia and Kosovo have agreed to accelerate plans to establish flights between Belgrade and Pristina. The Serbian government has this week formed a task force for the "normalisation of air travel in the Balkans" with its main objective being the resumption of services between the two cities after eighteen years. The fifteen-member group is made up of representatives from various state institutions and will focus on ways to overcome ongoing bureaucratic procedures and unresolved airspace issues. "The introduction of flights between Belgrade and Pristina forms part of the EU-brokered Brussels Agreement between Serbia and Kosovo. This service is of high importance to Air Serbia as well. Due to the large Albanian diaspora, flights from Pristina have potential for success", a spokesperson from the Serbian government said.
Since Serbia and Kosovo have not regulated portions of their airspace which border each other, the Serbian government has suggested for Air Serbia's aircraft departing Belgrade to fly into Macedonia before turning north-west towards Pristina, and thus avoid direct entry from Serbia. The routing would add an additional fifteen minutes to the journey. "A large number of people travel from Kosovo and Albania to North America. Therefore, we have a clear business interest to include Pristina in our destination network and in turn boost passenger numbers on our other flights", the Chairman of the Air Serbia Supervisory Board, Siniša Mali, said yesterday. Some 15.000 travellers flew from Pristina to New York's JFK and Newark Liberty airports last year. Of those, 10.900 were headed for JFK Airport to which Air Serbia maintains flights from Belgrade. Other cities in North America which saw a notable number of passengers departing Pristina include Chicago, Washington and Toronto.
Commenting on the potential resumption of flights between the two cities, Pristina Airport has said, “Both countries have targets to join the European Union, and direct flights will give a good signal that our two nations are leaving the past behind, and looking for a better future”. Previously, the Serbian government reached an agreement with its Kosovan counterpart to extend a free movement agreement, allowing Kosovan passport holders to transit through Belgrade and Niš airports. Currently, the fastest way to fly between Belgrade and Pristina is via Vienna, with journey time of over three and a half hours. JAT Yugoslav Airlines was the last to operate scheduled flights between the two cities.