Monday, March 5, 2018

Belgrade poised for second China route


The Chinese Ambassador to Serbia, Li Manchang, has confirmed that talks are underway for the introduction of a second service from China to Belgrade, after Hainan Airlines established flights between Beijing and the Serbian capital via Prague last September. "We see cooperation between China and Serbia at a historic high and a bilateral relationship going from strength to strength. Our friendship is ironclad. Therefore, I would like to use this opportunity to reveal a secret. We are currently discussing the introduction of a second service between Belgrade and another Chinese city", Mr Li said at a forum dedicated to Serbia - China relations. The ambassador played an instrumental role in talks between Hainan Airlines and the Serbian government over flights to and from Beijing which lasted throughout the winter and spring of last year.

Although the ambassador did not identify the Chinese city from which the new service could be established, the City of Belgrade said last November that talks over the introduction of flights from Shanghai would begin in the near future. Initial discussions over the route are believed to have taken place with Hainan Airlines, Air China and China Southern Airlines. Apart from Hainan Airlines, whose parent company, the HNA Group, has signed a Letter of Intent for cooperation with the Serbian government earlier this year, Air China has also publicly expressed interest in serving the Serbian capital. According to Sabre Airline Solutions, most of the traffic flow between China and Serbia over the past few years has originated from Shanghai, not Beijing. This is partially believed to be because the largest portion of Chinese nationals residing in Serbia have their origins in two provinces south of the Shanghai region.

Mr Li noted that the number of Chinese visitors to Serbia has significantly grown since the two countries abolished visa requirements for each others' nationals in January of last year. A total of 51.691 Chinese tourists visited Serbia in 2017, up 180.8% on the year before, while the number of overnight stays stood at 94.845, an increase of 120.6%. Hainan Airlines has told EX-YU Aviation News it will maintain services from Beijing to Belgrade this summer at two per week via Prague with its Airbus A330-300 aircraft. A number of Chinese companies are currently investing in Serbia which is expected to increase the demand for business travel between the two nations as well. Recently, Chinese company Mei Ta announced the construction of a second car parts factory in the country, while work on a Serbian-Chinese Industrial Park is also set to commence this year, with some forty large Chinese companies signing up to be based at the premises.

131 comments:

  1. He was on N1 some days ago and he said it's Shanghai. Exciting times ahead especially since it won't be operated by Hainan. BEG will be very exotic real soon. :D

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    1. What makes you think it won't be Hainan?

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    2. They are not that strong in Shanghai from what I heard.

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    3. Yeah, why not Hainan? For example, HU flies to Tel Aviv from both Shanghai and Beijing.

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    4. There are only three possible options from Shanghai - Air China, Hainan or China Eastern.

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    5. Best to stick to Hainan actually. They are by far the best airline out of the three.

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    6. Agree. Hainan is the best of the Chinese airlines.

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    7. Would be nice to see Hainan come with its B787 :)

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    8. It will be Air China or China Southern.

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  2. Air Serbia should have started Shanghai.

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    1. With what? :D

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    2. With an A330-200.

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    3. And how are they supposed to fly 5 times a week to NYC then?

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    4. They could have adjusted the schedule. Kept NY 3 times per week and Shanghai 2 times per week.

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    5. That would be crazy. The demand is much higher for NYC, especially in spring and summer. They could do China only with an additional plane and at this point that would be pure madness to lease another wide body.

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    6. It would be stupid to decrease JFK for Shanghai. They will be flying JFK 6x per week this summer, which goes to show their loads are healthy.

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    7. To me it makes no sense that Air Serbia still has no codeshare with Hainan Airlines on the Beijing route.

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    8. Not only do they have no codeshare but they are engaged in a pricing war. JU dumps prices to Prague on days Hainan flies.

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    9. Is it possible that they can't make a codeshare with Hainan because they have one with Air China from Vienna?

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    10. That codeshare is horrible. There is no point to it and I doubt anyone even uses it.

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    11. I doubt a codeshare with Air China would restrict them from a codeshare with Air China.

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    12. Given that decision was made to spend money on leasing that aircraft for JU, it would actually make sense to introduce some other flight. That could be Shanghai so having 2/3 JFK and 2/3 PVG throughout the year would be a better utilisation of the aircraft.

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    13. JU has a special prorate agreement with Hainan. They have a codeshare agreement with Air China from Vienna to Beijing.
      The other SPA's they have is with China Southern and Xiamen Airlines.

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    14. I would prefer JU focus on USA/Canada and leave this route to one of their Interline partners.

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    15. anon 12:28 PM
      Why concentrating on US/Canada? There are so many flights from Europe and domestic market form Serbia/ diaspora is not huge. Major airlines offer cheap tickets and there are very few business passengers to make these routes profitable. All the issues we already discussed many times on this forum.

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    16. @Anon at 1:15

      Recycle this comment (replace Serbia with Croatia) next time "Zagreb airport looking for US flights" topic comes up.

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    17. @last anon
      Will do! :)
      But as you mentioned Serbia/Croatia I will now have to compare JU/OU. Croatia could also lease A330 for JFK flights and even have LH style seating with 50 places in the first and business classes. It could fly daily to combination of DBV and ZAG (with many people continuing to the coast). The only issue would be what to do with the aircraft 8 months a year?

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  3. Would be nice to see Air China in Belgrade.

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    1. I have flown with Air China last year Rome - Beijing with 787 in premium economy. I was disappointed to learn that they have 3+3+3 configuration even in premium economy but the seat pitch was good. Overall not bad.

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    2. I flew with Air China around 10 years ago and it was probably the worst flight of my life although this was standard economy and the seat pitch was bad. They probably changed their product by now. Didn't help that the flight was packed and a long haul.

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    3. Many Chinese friends say they have improved a lot over the past decade. Rome - Beijing flight was completely full with all 27 premium economy seats occupied so not too comfortable. On the way back it was only six passengers in premium economy so everybody got 3 seats to enjoy 12h flight. Crew is great. Absolutely the worst part of the flight was disembarking in Beijing. We had to use stairs to get off the plane on subzero temperatures and then we were standing for some 15-20 min in crowded overheated bus.

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    4. I flew Air China, domestic and international, in past few years. I'd say - they are like any other big airline out there. Their PEK hub is quite nice and usually works fine.

      Now, I would also say there is a lot of pax who are entitled and don't care for the rules, as well as those who have never travelled. Combine that with general Chinese disrespect for Western rules of public behavior (not trying to criticize, they are just very different), and sometimes Air China experience isn't all that great.

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    5. @Anon March 5, 2018 at 11:14 AM
      It is indeed a very specific experience. :) But those are cultural differences. Food offered on Europe - Beijing flights is one of examples. I was very satisfied with crew and service and level of English was very good.

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  4. 50.000 tourists is not a lot. No wonder they are not increasing flights.

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    1. Flights started in mid September and tickets were on sale 3 weeks before. If you look at the statistics you would see that strong growth started about that time.

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    2. Visas were down for just a few months in 2017. I expect 80k in 2018. since I literally see Chinese tourists in Novi Sad on a daily bases.

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    3. This January growth in Chinese tourists in Serbia was 190%.

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    4. Why not Croatia?

      http://www.croatia-times.com/the-adriatic-times/chinese-tourists-croatia-desirable-destination/

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    5. Because as you may see it's not all about tourists. You have to be in good relations, you have to have their companies opening offices and factories in yours, you have to have their heads of state visit yours every other year etc.

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    6. Not having visas actually helps the most

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    7. Very soon, Serbia will have more Chinese tourists than Croatia.

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    8. @AnonymousMarch 5, 2018 at 10:53 AM
      I am from Serbia, but I am afraid we will not have more tourists. We have to accept that Croatia is more attrattive to tourists.

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    9. Serbia had 51.000 Chinese tourists despite flights starting only in September. I have a feeling it might grow to 100.000 in 2018.

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    10. Why not Croatia?
      I am sure Chinese did not forget this
      http://www.novosti.rs/vesti/planeta.300.html:521679-milanovi%C4%87-ne-dolazi-u-beograd

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    11. Croatia doesn't have direct flights, true, and the politicians didn't forget it, Nebojsa, but tourists obviously don't care...Even with visas ;)

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    12. Of course they don't care and they shouldn't care, but if not politicans tourists by themselves will not introduce flight from China to Croatia

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    13. Agree with you, Nebojsa (I wrote the 5:23 post). In the meantime, in first 2 months in Croatia 12% more tourists, which is really good.

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    14. Good!
      Shame that Milanovic made such a mistake

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  5. Bilo bi lepo da AS krene sa ovim letovima ali je nerealno jer jer u Sangaju nedma nase dijaspore. Ovo ce naj vise osetiti Rusi jer naj veci broj putnika trenutno ide preko Moskve.

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    1. Nasa dijaspora nazalost ponovo raste svuda. Iznenadjujuce veliki broj ljudi radi u Kini, ali to naravno nije znacajan broj za direktne letove.

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  6. I actually think Shanghai is much more logical route to BEG then PEK.

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    1. There will definitely be more O&D traffic.

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  7. So if talks are ongoing we could expect this route to start about the same time as Beijing did - in September.

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  8. Hainan Airlines will use its newly refurbished A330s with new seats on the PEK-PRG-BEG route. They announced it recently on Facebook.

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    1. With 1-2-1 seating in business class which is quite good for an A330. Same layout as Etihad.

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    2. But only with remaining Etihad partners you get 1+1+1 configuration :)))

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    3. @ 9.28 in fact I think they use the same seats as Etihad does.

      @9.38 True, although that layout is very rare on the A330s. Nevertheless, great premium product on JU and 9W.

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    4. @9:42 I have still not used JU to NYC. Have you seen their business cabin? It seems that seating arrangement is very strange with seats blocking windows. Do you get any views?

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    5. I have flown in their business class. They have herringbone seating which is used by a lot of airlines. I agree it is unfortunate that you can't directly view the window but have to tilt your head. That's why I prefer reversed herringbone seating where the seats are angled towards the window but still I think the seats are quite good. They give you privacy and a lot of space. Miles ahead of Emirates' seating (new and old).

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    6. * EK seating in business class of course, not first :)

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    7. The good news is that Emirates' new 777-X aircraft joining the fleet will offer a 1 x 2 x 1 seating configuration, meaning all passengers will finally get aisle access. The last of the MEB3 airlines to do that.

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    8. Tnx anon 10:17
      Anybody knows why JU opted for this configuration? Or they just tool Jet Airways aircraft without retrofitting it?

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  9. BEG is doing a great job in long haul routes. Who knows, maybe one day it will be connected to South America - LIM/BUE/SAO.

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    1. LOL... and I'm from BEG.

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    2. What´s so funny?

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    3. I just think it's funny for you to expect flights from South America to Belgrade.

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    4. There are 30 thousand Serbians living in Argentina and 30 thousand in Brasil.

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    5. Well, air traffic is developing rapidly all over the World. So in some 20-30 years time who knows.

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  10. If they start 2 weekly flights that would be 4 per week to China in total - 2 to PEK and 2 to PVG. Not bad.

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  11. Second China route, Teheran, India, most likely YYZ with JU great!
    If only BEG finally gets a metro connecting it to the city centre, that would be great!

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    1. How full was the first flight from Teheren yesterday?

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    2. There is no flight to Tehran on Sundays. Flights start this Saturday and they operate twice per week - Tuesdays and Saturdays.

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    3. Were they not supposed to start on the 3rd?

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    4. They start om the 10th. You can now buy tickets on their website.

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    5. Metro/rail connection would be great! Hopefully government was smart enough to put it in concession agreement with Vinci. And smart enough to ask them to pay for it.

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  12. Wouldn't it make more sense to operate this route PVG-PEK-BEG twice per week.

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  13. The way this is going maybe we see Chengdu-Belgrade in 2019 ;) :D

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    1. If you get tourists agencies to fill in the planes nothing is impossible. :)

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    2. Hong Kong would be better.

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    3. Interestingly Hong Kong does not require visas for Serbian citizens either (they have a separate visa policy to mainland China).

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    4. Hong Kong abolished vosas for Serbs a few years ago. Much earlier than China.

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    5. Yes, much earlier than China but China got flights to Belgrade much earlier than they did.

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    6. Well that's logical considering that flights to/from Hong Kong could only rely on Serbian tourists and I doubt there are too many to sustain several flights per week.

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    7. HK visa policy is pretty much super liberal, so the fact we don't require visas is not really "interesting". It was, in fact, interesting, when we were required to have them, being one of 40 or such countries in the world.

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    8. Cathay Pacific flights to Belgrade? That would be cool but very few Serbian tourists and virtually no business links. Maybe they could be interesting for those connecting to Australia.

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  14. It would be a really impressive development if within 2 years BEG has flights to two destinations in China.

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  15. Once these flights start it will be interesting to see if Aeroflot will be affected.

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    1. Middle East airlines are now offering the most competitive prices between BEG and China. I was looking at some fares to Shanghai a couple of days ago for this May and Qatar Airways was offering return tickets for 430 euros. Etihad was not far behind.

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    2. Still, SU offers more generous baggage allowance and pax are used to taking the SVO route. Also, connections and choices are far superior, due to two dailies to BEG (and most Chinese cities).

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    3. QR is dumping prices on all markets at the moment. That blockade is having a bigger impact on them then they admit.

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    4. I'm surprised Etihad isn't protesting against these China-Serbia flights.

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    5. It does not take away a significant portion of their passengers. What they did protest is Turkish being granted a license for A330 flights to BEG. Those would have started by now.

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    6. Etihad might be out of the picture anyway in few months. Once their management agreement ends they might even cease flights altogether.

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    7. Sure. That's why they are increasing their Belgrade flights to 10 weekly this summer. Probably as a good will gesture.

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    8. You never know. (Management) agreement they have for AS is very lucrative so they might decide to stay. In that case they might even upgrade the service to wide body as demand for Asia from Belgrade keeps growing.

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  16. Why haven't other EU countries abolished visas for Chinese citizens?

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  17. What is the makeup of passengers on the Beijing flights? Is it mostly tourists, business passengers, ethnic even?

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    1. Primarily tourists but there are all types.

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  18. And Serbia will have to follow EU visa policy once we are in the EU

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    1. And by the time that happens, traffic flow between the two countries should be big enough that visa implementation won't have such a major impact.

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    2. By the time Serbia enters the EU? I don't think it's wise to predict what will happen at around 2050.

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    3. ...if the EU is still there.

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    4. EU will survive in one from or another. Serbia will not join Schengen zone any time soon so even if visas are to return it can be fast and easy procedure.

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    5. EU will exist. Don't worry, "good wishers" ;)

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    6. Actually, joining the Schengen zone could be on the table for Serbia (and other WB6) rather fast after joining the EU - no external borders to speak of, basically, it will be a huge savings to the FRONTEX budget not having to police all the internal borders in the Balkans, thousands of kilometers...

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    7. We are still speaking about smt that might happen in 10-15 years time (Schengen). That is more than enough to establish Serbia as destination in Chinese market and have multiple flights.

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  19. To be honest I wasn't sure the Beijing route would survive but it seems they will not only keep it but introduce a second China route. I stand corrected.

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    1. Current route is only surviving due to arrangement they made to fly via Prague. I am really hoping tourist demand will grow to have a direct flight.

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    2. How do you know that? You had a look int their finances?

      And I don't understand your comment "only surviving because of Prague". They strategically planned to have the route operate via Prague at first until demand builds up.

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    3. Sad they are not introducing direct flights this summer, but obviously there is still not sufficient demand. Hopefully they will introduce it as number of tourist groups increases. It is great they keep it via PRG for the time being while they build demand.

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  20. Where are all the conspiracy theorists to tell us that this all means that the Chinese are getting the Belgrade Airport concession... Oh wait.

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  21. It will be interesting to see if these flights will operate nonstop or as a stop to an onward destination like the PEK flights.

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    1. Shanghai - Beijing - Belgrade routing would be good.

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  22. This route has potential. It can be used by business people, expats and tourists. I'm also sure there would cargo traffic on this route.

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  23. With all respect, BEG is a precious city but it falls in the "milking the project concept". Chinese will flock to visit it but their number will gradually drop.
    The only way for this route to really work is have some serious Chinese and Serbian companies arround to ensure business travel too. Good example: Poland, Czechia.

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    1. Chinese have been heavily investing in Serbia. On top of that they are planning to build a massive technology center next to Borcha.

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    2. There are big Chinese projects around Serbia. There is going to be a mentioned industrial park.
      @anon 8:00 PM
      Why would numbers drop? Chinese tourism is booming and every year more people can afford to travel.

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  24. Svakako su ovo odlicne vesti za LYBE posto nikad kao dosad nije moglo da se vidi da po gradu ima toliko turistakao sad. Nadam se da ce te letove obavljati druga kompanija posto bi onda LYBE bio po jos necemu jedinstven.
    INN-NS

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    1. ko kod da si, dobar si.

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  25. If it's a direct flight then it's the first Chinese route to BG. Those who call the Hainan flight via Prague a Chinese service are delusional.

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    1. Search direct and non-stop flights on the internet. Service BEG-JFK is non-stop. Service PEK-PRG-BEG is direct. You are delusional.

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  26. January tourism numbers are out and China is pretty impressive:

    - 2.632 tourists, growth of 289.5%

    ---------

    Some other impressive numbers:

    1. Japan 226 tourists, +226%
    2. Croatia, 5.633, +11%
    3. Turkey, 3.869 tourists, +41%
    4. Slovenia, 3.570 tourists, +22%
    5. Romania, 6.066 tourists, +60%
    6. Skopje, 5.016 tourists, +35%
    7. Bulgaria, 6.551 tourists, +7%
    8. Poland, 909 tourists, +37%

    In January Belgrade had 40.356 foreign tourists or 8.7% more than last year.

    Interestingly for the first time two new tourist groups showed up on the list:

    1. Iran, 653 tourists.
    2. India, 310 tourists.

    These numbers might be modest compared to some other markets like Hungary or the Czech Republic but what matters is to look at the growth.

    Turkish growth shows that TK's A330 was requested mostly because of local demand. We are looking at around 140.000 Turkish tourists in Belgrade alone this year.

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    1. Some other mainstream visitors include:

      1. Austria, 1.721, +17%
      2. Greece, 3.002, +3%
      3. Italy, 2.804, +0%
      4. Germany, 3.007, +5%
      5. Sweden, 854, 26%
      6. Czechs, 861, +47%

      Foreign tourists in Serbia this January: 81.442 (+16%)

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    2. That's a lot of Slovenes. Maybe it's time for Wizz Air to look at two weekly BEG-LJU.

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