The President and CEO of the Etihad Aviation Group, James Hogan, has said the Emirati carrier is "here to stay" when it comes to its investment in Air Serbia. The two inked a five-year cooperation agreement in 2013, with the option of extending the partnership for a further five years. Speaking at a press conference in Belgrade on Monday, Mr Hogan played down speculation that Etihad would review investments in all of its European equity partners, among which are Air Berlin, Alitalia, Air Serbia and Etihad Regional. "When I look at the roadmap going forward with Air Serbia, I think it is a good work in progress. Our partnership is long-term. The 'five plus five' is about a cooperation agreement but the investment is a long-term investment. So we are here to stay".
The head of the aviation group, who will be stepping down from his post in the second half of the year, said the company's commitment to Serbia has been further emphasised with the opening of the Etihad Airways Partners Shared Services unit in Belgrade earlier this week. He noted that Etihad's 49% acquisition of Air Serbia has proved an "outstanding model" on how to restructure a government-owned airline. "It's an outstanding transformation. We know the state of the old Jat, which was on the point of collapse. Within three and a half years the airline has underwent a complete transformation". Within the coming months, Etihad is expected to ease concerns over plans for its European investments and will put a greater emphasis on promoting its equity alliance, with Serbia playing a role as well.
Mr Hogan noted that Etihad will do more to promote Serbia and bring tourists to the country. "The more that we can do to bring tourism and the destination program alive, alongside what's happening with Air Serbia, is good for jobs and the improvement of revenues. I think Serbia has a unique opportunity moving forward. It's about people knowing about the destination, about a digital society and age. It's important to segment the market, understand what drives the market and how Serbia fits in. When I look at our project and the micro projects in Serbia, I know the country can deliver. I certainly think there is much more in our sector of airlines and tourism where we can do a lot more together".