Friday, June 23, 2017

Air Serbia’s transatlantic service one year on


Today marks a year since Air Serbia launched its first transatlantic service between Belgrade and New York with the carrier upbeat on the route’s future prospects. Over the past year, the airline operated 204 flights between the two cities and says it has witnessed strong and growing passenger load factors. “Air Serbia is delighted to be celebrating one year of successful operations to New York, where we began flying on June 23, 2016. Our flight was widely anticipated in Serbia and Southeast Europe for two reasons: it reconnected Serbia to the US with the first Serbian-operated flight since 1992, and it established the only year-round transatlantic air link to the US originating in the region”, an Air Serbia spokesperson told EX-YU Aviation News. They added, “It is especially satisfying to see that the mix of traffic is balanced, with 47% of guests originating from North America and 53% coming from Europe. The reaction from the Serbian diaspora in North America has been exceptionally positive, as predicted, and the service has also been welcomed with open arms by communities from other countries of the former Yugoslavia”.

The airline has worked hard to market the flights in the wider region, with the service proving particularly popular with travelers from Montenegro and Albania. “The flight has captured strong travel demand from countries neighbouring Serbia, with high volumes of connecting traffic from Montenegro, Albania, Greece, Macedonia and Croatia. This has driven the growth of tourism arrivals from America, and we are particularly seeing a large number of holidaymakers who are combining a visit to Belgrade with an onward trip to the Adriatic coast”, Air Serbia said. Over the past twelve months, the Serbian carrier has concluded partnerships with jetBlue, which allows passengers to connect from Belgrade to major cities across the States with one stop in New York, as well as American Airlines, which has opened up travel options for passengers flying to the mid-West and cities which are heavily populated with people who originate from the Balkans, such as Cleveland.

Ethnic travel agents in the United States have said that following an initially slow response by the flying public to the Air Serbia service, bookings and interest have significantly picked up. Travel agency Axioma Travel, which caters to the ethnic market and diaspora from the former Yugoslavia in the US, told EX-YU Aviation News, “Last year’s launch of New York – Belgrade flights was highly anticipated but at the same time met with quite a bit of scepticism. By the time ticket sales started, many potential customers had already purchased tickets on other carriers. Others waited as they were afraid the flights would be late, subject to government approval, and that the on board service would be poor. For its part, Air Serbia was slow to roll out competitive interline agreements to link JFK with points where ethnic customers live”. However, Fedja Stepanovich, the head of Axioma, noted, “Since the start of flights in June of last year, Air Serbia’s sales team worked with the agent community to develop programs and incentives to raise brand awareness, improve interline links, and, most importantly, listen to customers and agents about what was needed to boost sales. News of the impressive on-time record and great on board service quickly spread through the ethnic community and the phones started to ring”. He added, “In the same period this year, Axioma Travel's sales on flight JU500/501 have grown almost tenfold. Customers from cities like Phoenix, Cleveland and Jacksonville for the first time in several decades now have a one-stop flight to Belgrade. And they started to line up to buy the tickets. On many flights this June we have booked forty, fifty or even sixty passengers on a single flight”.


Questions have been raised as to whether Air Serbia can sustain a large investment such as transatlantic operations, however, the airline says the route is a long-term commitment which will take several years before it reaches its full potential. The carrier has also generated revenue on the route from other streams such as cargo. “Air Serbia's cargo operations are performing above all expectations. The airline's uplift capacity to JFK, which is fifteen tonnes per flight on the Airbus A330, is in high demand. We are transporting a wide variety of goods to the US and onwards to Canada and countries in South America, including textiles from Romania, Italy and Turkey, automotive parts and gaming industry machines from Bulgaria, and Serbian fruits and mushrooms, to name a few. From the other direction, there are even regular shipments of cargo from Ecuador and Argentina being sent to the region on board our service from JFK”, the airline said. Going forward, local agents in the US say areas of improvement and opportunity include more progress in interline connections to other US cities, better timed schedules to Sarajevo, Banja Luka and Podgorica and capturing more passengers from Chicago, Los Angeles, Seattle and others that already had established one-stop connections (through Lufthansa, Austrian, Swiss, Turkish Airlines etc) to Belgrade and other cities in the region.

117 comments:

  1. Nice article. Good to see Air Serbia improving on New York route. I didn't know they actually managed a deal with jet blue and American. Anyone know how many passengers they handled on the route?

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    1. According to Novosti.rs 80.000 passengers

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    2. Lazovi iz Novosti ukupni kapacitet linije je manji.

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    3. Baš su lazovi.

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    4. How? 204 flights x2= 408, let's say that every single had 200 passengers, 408x200=81600

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    5. Because it's 204 return flights, not 204 flights each way.

      So 204x254 (JU A330 capacity) = 51,816

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    6. Math again... An year has 52 weeks. Let's say that there were average 4 weekly flights. 52X4=208! 408x254=103,632 (not sure tho, not an expert)

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    7. If anons 10:17 and 9:15 are right, average LF is about 77%

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    8. The thing is that they made 204 return flights so 204×218=44472
      Maybe im wrong.

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    9. But max capacity for one RETURN flight is 254 seats one way (BEG-JFK leg) and 254 seats the other way (JFK-BEG Leg), so one return flight offering 508 seats.

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  2. Imagine how successful this route would be if JU had a decent network out of BEG. For example, if there were morning flights to TIA, SKG, SKP...

    It's a shame they are unable to sustain regional night flights throughout the year.

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    1. Interesting to see that now on Fridays, SJJ is in the morning wave.

      JU112 BEG 0730 SJJ 0825
      JU113 SJJ 1025 BEG 1115

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  3. "we are particularly seeing a large number of holidaymakers who are combining a visit to Belgrade with an onward trip to the Adriatic coast”

    And people here said no one would use these flights to Croatia.

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  4. Had they not launched last year they would not have been able to do it this year with all the stuff happening at Etihad. Like people here were saying for EK's DXB route "give it some time", the same must be applied with this route. It has improved a lot in terms of passenger numbers.

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    1. Based on what figures have you come to this conclusion?

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    2. With the low price of oil last year and relatively low competition in the immediate region it was probably the best time to start flights.

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  5. The article paints a rosy picture, but there is no talk of load factors, yield, projections etc. What about other revenue streams? Cargo is in high demand, but compared to what.
    Without some facts this is just bajke.

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    1. Well, the whole article is based on the airline's statement. What did you expect? Loads are good, that's no secret. It's the yields that are killing them.

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    2. No airline in the world will give you their yields on a route, good or bad.

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    3. I question the long term viability of this route because their European network is modest and not growing.

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    4. loads are not good in winter season.

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    5. To be expected, but they still have to utilize the plane somewhere. Why not add ORD or YYZ?

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    6. @anon 9.32

      JFK was mostly full throughout January and December

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  6. Bravo Srbija! Pardon AirSerbia

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  7. Dzaba im sve kada su 50% skuplji od konkurencije. Nikakav je problem da LH obori cene na 400 jura.

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    1. Ove price skuplji su, jeftiniji su bla bla su stvarno prevaziedjene. Ljudi kojima cena odgovara putuju sa njima, kojima ne odgovara lete sa nekom drugom kompanijom i tacka.

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    2. Jbt vidi se da ne letis preko Atlantika sa celom porodicom gde mozes da letis upola cene sa presedanjem sto je dve mesecne plate. Mogu da ih LH i Turkis pritiskaju, jer njihovi putnici iz BEG i regiona nisu glavni za linije. Iako ima dosta bogatih ljudi u bgd nesto ne lete sa biznis klasom asl vec koriste druge avio kompanije cije FF programe imaju. ASL ima samo dobre veze preko Air Berlina iz ostatka Amerike koji je mnogo veci od NYC.

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  8. I still think this route came way too early and they should have strengthened the short haul network first before going into any long haul flights. That said I think they were forced into it politically or should I say by their 51% majority owner.

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    1. If they didnt start it last year, they wouldnt start it all considering Etihad is in problems. Basically, it turned out the decision was perfect and in the perfect time.

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    2. The logic behind opening JFK was to strengthen regional routes. However:

      - Many regional routes are not possible without long transit times.
      - In the winter, a few destinations lose their connectivity with the cancellation of night rotations.
      - A shortage on ATR's means that increasing frequencies to these regional routes is not possible, currently.

      Interesting enough, AUH connects well with JFK however it is not possible to purchase tickets.

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    3. +1

      That is very interesting and if i may add, extremely stupid.

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  9. I like that the article gave the angle of tour agents and operators. Definitely agree with what's said about what has to be done in the future for this route.

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  10. are there any plans what they are going to do with the A330 next winter? If they keep 3 flight p/w they can comfortably use the aircraft on some other route.

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    1. What would you suggest?

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    2. Chicago. Keep NY 3pw year round and Chicago 3pw.

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    3. What about Toronto? Strong demand there too.

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    4. Way too seasonal, much more then the US. The flights would be full in the summer without doubt but would be difficult to fill to satisfactory levels other times of the year. Toronto is also an extremely expensive airport. Some of the highest fees in the world.

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    5. Don't underestimate YYZ, twice weekly in winter would work.

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    6. Etihad could reroute some of their Toronto flights via BEG ;)

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    7. Good to know cargo continues to Canada and JAX passengers now have one stop to BEG. Why not give passengers from Toronto option to connect to JU500/501 through interline? They are being forced to connect via EU hub. Toronto market is far bigger than Jacksonville.

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    8. Or JU could do 1 stop flight via JFK (To Mexico City lol)

      Kidding, but, that could be an option, maybe to West coast, maybe to Canada

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    9. EY are cutting costs big time, today announcing the withdrawal of chauffeur transfers for business clas pax. I doubt BEG is high on priority initiatives

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    10. Kao prvo let za JFK preko zime se povećava na 4 ovu sezonu, drugo cene su uglavnom malo veće ove godine i to je sasvim normalno za direktne letove. Ako ste u regionu YYZ možete da uradite kartu sa Jetblue konekcijom iz Bafala po vrlo povoljnim cenama. Ima opcija sa AA iz YYZ sa 2:30 čekanja u JFK. I dalje će 330 biti slobodan samo 1 dan preko zime ( ostala 2 dana između letova se rade tehnički radovi na letilici ).

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    11. Hot Lane: cena ubija + voznja od Toronta

      https://s16.postimg.org/xv2ugdcyt/BUF_BEG.jpg

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    12. Anon at 9:43

      Completely agree, however it doesn't stop Air Transat from expanding seasonal operations from same expensive airport to ZAG. If Air Serbia does not have (and will not have for quite some time based on official statements) additional plane for seasonal YYZ, why not do the same thing as with PEK: look for a partner in Canada to operate and hopefully codeshare and feed those flights?

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  11. What is impressive that there have been no cancelled flights, no massive delays, no major technical problems with the aircraft.

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    1. True dat. But how does that compare with say LOT on their Warsaw route?

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    2. Don't know. I just think that they did well considering it's a one aircraft operation and a lot of people were worried about this, myself included.

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  12. It all reads pretty nice. In the end the ONLY thing that matters will be the profitability of the service that will dictate its future.

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    1. That is NOT the only thing that matters - it sure is one of them, but it is far from THE only thing.

      More important will be whether the stakeholders agree if the route is meeting strategic objectives.

      You think every airline only flies profitable routes ?

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    2. No I don´t think so, but the NYC service is the one which has the largest cost impact on the whole company. So it must be supported by others which do not have the chance to generate huge profits to support a (loss making?) NYC service.

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    3. Veci su im troskovi aviolinije koje ne rade po Evropi. Nisu obnovili nista od mediteranskog saobracaja osim Bejruta i Tel Aviva. Alzir Tunis Egipat.

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  13. Love the video!

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  14. I hope they stick it out and this route stays part of the network. Good luck JU.

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    1. It will. It's a major political route.

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    2. What do you mean ?

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    3. Launched because of politics and state pressure. As such it will remain part of the network.

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    4. Etihad said from the very start when they took a share in JU that the objective was to launch US flights. I don't see why is it political or what did Serbia get from the US for this route, neither do I think that US cares all that much.

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    5. It is political for Vučić on the domestic front. He can brag how Serbia is only country in the region with direct JFK flights and score political points at home. (At least in his eyes).

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    6. I highly doubt that people who were swayed to vote for Vucic voted for him because of New York flights. The route itself was launched several months after the elections.

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    7. Presidential election was what, six weeks ago. JFK flights are constantly and consistently used in political speeches, propaganda etc. by our glorious leader.

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    8. Don't know which country you are living in but I haven't once heard JFK flights be used in political speaches. They usually mention it when they are talking about tourism or tourism potential. We get it, you are not a fan. Move along, deal with it.

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    9. Ok man, whatever.

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  15. Any detail ex YU on the profitability for this route? Also been waiting over a month on the financials of JU last financial year. Lack of information and recent 5 year business plan at JU makes me question whether they are financially robust.

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    1. Well you probably can guess the answer that they are not financially robust. A robust management and company status is associated with expansion, new products and not vice versa (unless we count their cabin retrofit as expansion).

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    2. Not sure what you mean by "robust" - probably wrong choice of words. There is only responsible management and what responsible management does is work on improving and delivering profits. Expansion for the sake of expansion gets you nowhere if it doesn't improve profitability.

      They grew incredibly over the past 3 years - especially in the first 18mths. What they have to do now, is to get to profitability with what they have. Once there, then they should grow.

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  16. Very nice that JU is improving it's position with regards to this flight. Only sceptical about 3 flights a week during winter and lack of engagement for the aircraft.

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    1. Who knows, maybe they surprise us and use the plane this winter somewhere else.

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  17. They were just recently advertising on the website something like 500e return Beg-Jfk-Beg (if I am not mistaking) ...I am afraid in summer season that is not yielding the right profits?!

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  18. I think the JFK route was introduced too soon but nevertheless, if the company persists, it will become established and an option for more people in SE Europe who might otherwise use TK, LH or OS.

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  19. Just checked, lowest beg-jfk-beg fare with ASL is 482e. However, the other way (jfk-beg-jfk) it is 646e

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    1. Which period? Summer or winter?

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  20. Good thing they are not planning more long haul routes because that would have put even more pressure on them.

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    1. How do you know they are not?

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    2. They are waiting 2 years until NY becomes profitable before they start thinking of expanding long haul. They said that themselves and I think it's a good decision.

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    3. They said 3 ;)

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    4. Actually a few months ago in an interview Hogan said 5.

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  21. If you JU had PRN flights, they would be able to fill these planes to the US even more.

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    1. PRN flights don't depend on them. If they could launch it today, they would.

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    2. Wishful thinking. Not sure if Kosovar pax are interested in this travel option even if JU flew BEG to PRN. Wouldn't rely on this

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    3. Same was said for Albanians from Tirana and it turned out that there are many passengers from ther flying on this route.

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    4. Would be so awesome if we had those flights.

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    5. Albanians in Tirana and Albanians in Pristina are not quite the same.

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  22. Sve cestitke za prvu godisnjicu letova
    Er Srbije na destinaciji BEG - JFK - BEG
    Rodney
    SYDNEY AUSTRALIA 🇦🇺🇷🇸🇺🇸

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  23. okay, BEG-JFK is loosing money.
    i would just like to know how much?

    any guesses?
    a)€5mil/y
    b)€10mil/y
    c)€15mil/y
    d)€20mil/y

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    1. We will never find out and we shouldn't

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    2. what do you mean we shouldn't? the loss is covered from state budget that is filled by tax payers.

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    3. And what about Srbijagas, Galenika and bunch of other broken companies that have been chewing up taxpayer money for well over a decade - with no end in sight ??

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  24. JU product transatlantic is excellent.

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    1. I have been reading reviews on various websites of foreigners taking these flights are the comments are very favorable and the price is more than good.

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  25. Prijatno je procitati da se ova linija razvija u dobrom pravcu.

    Logicno je i normalno bilo pretpostaviti na pocetku otvaranje iste da profitabilnost nece biti velika (vec da ce gubiti novac) medjutim vrlo raduje cinjenica da JU saradjuje sa Jet Blue kao i sa AA u SAD.

    Takodje je vrlo ohrabrujuce citati
    izvestaje agencija koje govore o porastu traznje za letove ka BEG.

    Popunjenost kabine od oko 77% procenata na godisnjoj osnovi je zadovoljavajuci rezultat ali on sam po sebi ne moze biti dovoljan dok se ne zna prihod od tih letova a tu informaciju sve kompanije cuvaju od javnosti.

    Ono sto bi definitivno trebalo jos uraditi kako bi ova linija jos bolje funkcionisala je da se jutarnja konekcija ka gradovima regije pojaca kao i otvaranje linije za KBP koja je dobro punila JFK a i da se krene sa agresivnijom kampanjom reklamiranja Srbije u SAD.

    Kada se svode racuni za prethodnih 12 meseci ispada da iako ova linija stvara odredjeni gubitak ni izbliza nije toliko losa koliko bi pojedinci zeleli a pogotovo je ohrabrujuce sto ima potencijal da postane profitabilna kako za JU tako i za Srbiju i region u celini.

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    1. zaoravo nema potencijala da psotane profitabilna, ali ok

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  26. the fares are low so it was to be expected that the LF would be good. Don't get me wrong I'm happy prices are affordable and hope it all works out for Air Serbia but high LF does not necessarily mean profitability. You can hand out tickets for free and have 100% LF every day.

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    1. Prices are quite normal. I would not say they are that cheap. €450 to JFK has been the norm for a few years now. Check out other airlines and you will see that their prices mostly match.

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  27. Good news for JU, but it will be hard to make a profit with limited potential for connections beyond the Balkans.

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  28. Good to see sales picked up in the US. People were quite apprehensive at first like the article says.

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  29. OT Just as it was expected, Flydubai will fly to Belgrade on daily basis from 29th October.

    Great news !

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    1. And from July QR increases BEG to A321. From winter flights go to 10 weekly, daily in summer.

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  30. Good news for Air Serbia. I'm glad this route is improving.

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  31. JU will fly 4x per week to JFK this winter, which is up on last year.

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    1. No, they are flying 3x per week like last year and 4x per week during winter peak 15.12-12.1. Same as last year.

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  32. "local agents in the US say areas of improvement and opportunity include more progress in interline connections to other US cities, better timed schedules to Sarajevo, Banja Luka and Podgorica and capturing more passengers from Chicago, Los Angeles, Seattle and others that already had established one-stop connections (through Lufthansa, Austrian, Swiss, Turkish Airlines etc) to Belgrade and other cities in the region."

    +1000

    Ukraine also should be re-established, large number of transfer passengers from there.

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    1. Sure, plenty of transfer pax from Ukraine, but at terrible yields which make the Kiev-Belgrade route unprofitable, just to feed onto the BEG-JFK route which is already unprofitable

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    2. There are barely tickets for less than 1000$ this summer from Ukraine to the US.

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  33. Congrats Air Serbia on a first year of service, hope it continues for many years!

    Negative comments are comical. For example, based on 2016 data, LF was as high as 94% in August on BEG to JFK flights, but the LF discrepancy between directions was also highest that month. Overall in 2016 LF to BEG was 69% and 74% to JFK, very good for initial few months.

    Cargo did great with almost continuous month over month growth (slight drop in Nov) and over 700 metric tons carried. Cargo flow was also asymmetrical, with 66% more cargo flowing to JFK than to BEG.

    Solid results and even more important, trending looks good. Please note those are not official Air Serbia numbers, just my calculation based on available data.

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  34. Any idea on what percentage of pax are O&D, and transfer?

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  35. Do you guys know if I can fly out of belgrade to NYC with a Kosovar passport?

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