Analysts weigh in on Air Serbia’s longhaul plans

Air Serbia expected to launch flights to the US in 2016

Air Serbia aims to become the first airline in the former Yugoslavia to resume services to the United States. The carrier’s Vice-Chairman, James Hogan, has said he expects Air Serbia to commence transatlantic flights in late 2015 or early 2016 if a feasibility study, currently under way, shows that such services are financially sustainable. “We will launch new routes and Chicago is the first destination we are thinking of. It is a logical choice since it is home not only to the largest Serbian diaspora but also others from the former Yugoslavia”, Mr. Hogan noted recently. Serbia’s Prime Minister, Aleksandar Vučić, said in October last year that Air Serbia will inaugurate services to Chicago and Toronto in 2016 using an Airbus A330. Earlier this month, the United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) upgraded Serbia from a category two to a category one ranking, allowing airlines registered in the country to operate flights to the US. However, the upgrade does not grant the national carrier, or any other airline from Serbia, rights to operate services to the United States by default. The FAA's foreign assessment program focuses on a country's ability, not the individual air carrier, to adhere to international standards. The US Department of Transport makes a final decision whether to issue permits to airlines on a case-by-case basis.

Analysts say Air Serbia will lease widebody jets from its part owner Etihad Airways for its flights across the pond, which could potentially hurt American carriers. Saj Ahmad, the chief analyst at Strategic-Aero Research says, “Air Serbia will likely have to load a widebody jet or jets from Etihad if it seeks to start flights quickly to the USA”. He adds, “It’s possible Etihad will start codesharing, too, thus plucking more passengers onto its network, albeit at the expense of US carriers, so you can appreciate why some US airlines were dubious and concerned about Air Serbia being granted access”. Others believe the national carrier still has a way to go before launching transatlantic flights and must expand its reach within the region and upgrade facilities at its hub airport for transit passengers. Flights to the US would also require much preparation as the market is highly seasonal with plenty of early bookings and tickets being purchased as much as a year in advance.

Earlier opposition from US-based carriers and organisations indicate a difficult road ahead for Air Serbia and its ambitions to launch flights to the States. In October 2013, Delta Air Lines appealed to the Department of Transport to reject a codeshare agreement between Air Serbia (then Jat Airways) and Etihad Airways on flights from Abu Dhabi to the US. It said, “JAT and Etihad have not been candid with the Department in their characterisation of the facts concerning Etihad’s ownership interest in and effective control of JAT. JAT and Etihad bear the burden of addressing these issues in a forthright manner, particularly given that the proposed services would be the product of market-distorting, anticompetitive state subsidies from which both Etihad and JAT benefit”. In a separate docket filed that month concerning codeshares between Air Serbia and Air Berlin, Delta said, “JAT has no underlying economic authority to serve the United States”. Etihad responded to these allegations by saying, “No US carrier, let alone Delta, directly serves the US-Serbia market, and no US carrier (save for Delta) opposed these applications. It is essential to note that even though US carrier interest in these applications may be limited, the interests of Serbia and Abu Dhabi are not”.


  1. Anonymous09:23

    Air Serbia should first get its timetable in order before thinking of long-haul flights. I think their Paris flight has a 10% on-time performance.

  2. YU-ANK is now painted in Aviolet colors.

    Correct me if I am wrong, but I believe that this is the second one that is painted in Aviolet scheme. (First was YU-AND)

    1. Nope, third one. YU-ANI was also painted a few days ago.

    2. Ah, thanks for the info. Nemjee, have you by any chance overheard what might be the fate of the rest of the 733s?

    3. Nope... but I have to say that they are great aircraft for these charter flights!
      In my opinion, the decision to re-configure these birds and to remove a part of the front galley, so as to add more seats, was the best thing to do.

    4. Anonymous12:15

      Have they increased the seat density as well ? What is the capacity now?

    5. Yes, the capacity was increased big time. If I am not mistaken old JU birds had 126 seats while YU-AND has 144.
      High configuration for charter flights is the way to go. No one cares about the comfort on these flights, all they want is cheap fares.

    6. Anonymous13:50

      Indeed, I flew on YU-ANI yesterday to AYT and seat pitch is OK for charter flights, much better than on those B733 leased from Bulgaria.

  3. Beside ORD and Toronto, BEG-PEK and BEG-JNB (via ATH) would be very busy routes

    1. Anonymous19:32

      South Africa -UAE bilaterals are at the max. EK just announced its fourth daily JNB and EY has no more room to grow. SZ helps here a bit via SEY but its not a direct AUH service.

      Etihad will more than likely push AZ or JU into JNB, though my bet is for JU since AZ would not fly down south via AUH, while JU would and could.

    2. Anonymous17:32

      Anyone knows why Airserbia isnot having route option BEG-OMO e.g. Mon-Fri once in morning OR evening? I ould consider it profitable with ATR to feed rest of network.

  4. QR92110:48

    As the previous commentator said, there is no point of opening routes to the US while ignoring the far-eastern markets. Opening of JFK, ORD or LAX (without talking of Canadian destinations) must be coupled with PEK and PVG as minimum, basically LOT's current long-haul network. JNB as well but i doubt EY will allow it - it's served better (more efficiently) via AUH.

    Anyway, while most of us keep talking of the flights to the US i think that as important and even more perspective are flight to Asia and far-East.

    Another a bit crazy idea would be BEG-MEX. Mexico is practically unserved from this part of the world and i really think a study should be made to examine the feasibility of such a route. Belgrade is in the best possible range to serve it, Istanbul already being too far, but they would need a different bird for that. If Beirut can survive on ~100% transit pax, i'm sure Mexico could do as well.

    1. good post!

    2. QR92112:19

      Thanks. In the future Air Serbia's network should resemble more and more a mix of those of LOT and Austrian Airlines.

    3. I agree with everything you wrote. I'd also add maybe HND or BKK too as well as few more Chinese destinations. There is great potential in China, it being the fastest growing market. But, I guess Etihad would never allow such expansion

    4. Anonymous14:31

      Besides the potential, there are no FAA's, CAT's, DTTS, PPEE's and other stupid abbreviations claiming some sacred-like authority with their stupid and irrational standards and bureaucratic practices. Permissions, authorization, verification, verification of the permission, just go to hell...

      Seems it's hard for them to get over the fact that they're aren't the center of the world anymore (and never been in what concerns me).

  5. Anonymous11:41

    Before Air Serbia launches long haul destinations, they should think about adding more aircrafts to their fleet and opening routes like Barcelona, Madrid, Hamburg, Saint Petersburg, Zagreb, Munich, Ohrid, Amman, Cairo, etc.

  6. Anonymous11:53

    Punctuality is the biggest pain so far and seems nothing is getting done to improve. It is amazing some key destination flights are constantly delayed causing transit pax problems and probably costing JU a fortune. Beirut has not departed BEG once on time!... AMS / DCG / ZRH / FRA usualy late 30-60 min .... In order to operate transatlantic all these feeder flights must on time! JAT's joke about time was actually minor compared to today's operations. Something needs to be done ASAP Skytrax reviews already indicate this problem becoming persistent.

  7. Anonymous13:00

    YU-ALO is in service again, I suppose it was on reconfiguration.

  8. Anonymous14:07

    Air Serbia will not be allowed to fly to eastern destinations, because of parent company. All flights to east direction will be via AUH. If you check Air Berlin, than you can see that their only destination in Asia is Thailand. But this route will be canceled in autumn. All passengers from AB network going thru AUH. AB have much grater network and served destinations, but they don't have so many longhaul flights.
    On this way will go also AS.
    AS will start with longhaul flights, but only few destinations in USA, like NYC, ORD, possible one Canadian destination ant that will be it.
    Especially if EY overtake AZ, than AS will be really limited regarding direct flights to North American destinations.
    If someone thinks that AS will have big longhaul fleet, don't be so realistic. Just check EY order for longhaul planes. Someone needs to fill this plane with passengers, this will be AB, AS and other partner companies.

    1. QR92114:20

      No body said they're gonna have many, it will be 2 or 3 birds at most. The question was more as to how could Eastern connections enhance the Western long-haul routes. I see them definitely launching Canada even ahead of the US as a way for EY to circumvent the current restrictions.

      Air Serbia could be seen doing some long-haul flying for EY from Abu Dhabi and that could be Beijing.

      Alitalia is a completely different question and i'm not sure of what they're gonna do with them. I don't see that airline being saved without a 50+ wide-body order and phasing out most if not all of their narrow-body aircraft.

    2. Anonymous17:28

      Circumventing restrictions is NOT what EY wants to do. Complementing it with codeshare is probably better way to go.

    3. Let's wait here a moment. Air Berlin's decision to close Thailand might have nothing to do with Etihad. Both Air France and Lufthansa were defeated within this market and Lufthansa is considering withdrawing from this market altogether... or was it Air France? I can't be bothered to check right now. Another airline which was forced to withdraw is SAS despite having a massive O&D demand.
      Air Berlin is a total mess. For a long time now they have been unable to define what their business strategy is. To me, it seems only their US routes seem to be doing ok which might come as a result of a massive O&D demand between the two countries.

      As far as Air Serbia's routes to China go, let's not forget that Etihad is not run by fools. They would insist on funnelling everything via Abu Dhabi if they could make any money off of it. Belgrade is served very well by Turkish Airlines and Aeroflot which offer faster and shorter trips to China. In other words, this is a market where Etihad can't attract enough passengers to make money off of them. That's why Air Serbia's routes to China are not surrealistic.

  9. Anonymous14:51

    As not effectively controlled by Serb nationals, YU will be restricted in traffic rights to West/US.
    After Etihad took all the money from YU on a/c lease, training, marketing etc., they will pull out like TK did with JA.
    YU is not even employed already to work as feeder operator to Abu Dhabi hub, instead Etihad is operating twice daily.
    So dreams of new JAT will soon become lost.

    1. YU doesnt exists, JU does

    2. Anonymous17:07

      anon @ 2.51pm - let's revisit some facts which you have clearly not been made aware of.

      1. 51% of the company is owned by the Govt of Serbia. That's a clear majority

      2. 5 out of the 9 Board of Directors, are nominees of the Govt of Serbia. That's a clear majority.

      3. The CEO and 3 out of 4 of the executive directors, are citizens of the Republic of Serbia. That's a clear majority.

      These points constitute the fundamental elements around effective control - all of which is in the hands of the Govt of Serbia and Serbian nationals.

      Anything else you have read or have been told, is misinformation driven by politics.....

    3. Anonymous17:17

      Can you prove they are not controlled as you say? No, I didn't think so.

      Etihad didn't took the money, they gave them the money through purchase of 49%. If JAT had all that money to spend on lease, training and marketing, they would do it themselves.

      Air Serbia is feeding it's passengers to Etihad by operating BEG-AUH, flights JU800/801. Check your facts.

  10. Anonymous15:12

    I agree, 5 birds will be max.

    My opinion is that east - west connectins will not go thru BEG. It will go thru AUH. BEG will have just Balkan passengers (or some smaller amount from other parts of Europe). This is way on which AS should go. Don't have so big appetite for beginning of longhaul flights. Maybe in future will be possible to have flights to east, but in next 5-10 years just North America.

    AB have flight to Phuket from AUH, also Air Seychelles have some flights from AUH. But this is mainly because AB planes are standing at AUH from morning to evening waiting flights to Europe. From autumn, AB will have double daily flights from their bases, so AB will not operate anymore flights from AUH to other Asian destinations. EY have lack of planes, so they try to use partener planes to serve some destinations. Even they lease planes from their partners, like Jet Airways.

    AS will not fly to any other destination from AUH, because this will require more planes for AS.
    AUH - PEK is ~8h, so if AS will fly on this route, they will need just one plane for this sector. What about serve USA, and connection BEG - AUH. No, this is not realistic.

  11. Anonymous17:16

    Show up the Shareholders Agreement and voting rights clauses.
    At the time of conclussion of the investment, both Etihad and Government stated publicly that among other elements of the deal "that Etihad has 5 years management control of the Air Serbia".
    So be it.

    1. Anonymous17:25

      Looks like you are new to this topic. Let me bring you up to the speed: Management contract is not an issue with Air Serbia as it does not violate ECAA. The issue is who really controls the board, and that has been answered above.

  12. Anonymous18:01

    You forgot voting rights.

  13. Anonymous18:43

    Let me ask did AS already become a profitable company? Last year it was said that there will be no salary increase for all employees ("new begining"), but flight pursers got 10% wage increase compared with the wages they had last few years in Jat. Agreement remained secret, rumors that the state must subsidize AS till 2017, and whether it is right any kind of salary increase when the Minister seeks reduction of pensions and salaries in the public sector?

    1. Anonymous19:18

      Several departments within ASGS got a 15% wage increase.

    2. Anonymous19:47

      That's nice but whether it is in contradiction to what was said by the new management and is fair to the taxpayers who fund the Serbian venture

    3. Anonymous19:56

      Yeah but at the same time the employees were underpaid... curtsey of Jat Airways.

    4. Anonymous19:56

      Perhaps results and performance compared to expectations had something to do with it?

  14. Anonymous19:43

    I suggest we all be(come) realistic. JU will at first get exactly 1 and in the long run 2 wide bodies only, no more, unless transfers via AUH will increase very noticeably, in that case calculate with a possible third long range a/c (however, latter is not too realistic - since YU-APD is A319LR for longer services).

    These max. 3 wide bodies will be used A332 or B789 on lease from EY.

    They will first operate 5 weekly to ORD with one a/c (leaves potential for up to 2 more weekly services if there should be demand for it).
    Second will operate 3x weekly to NYC (JFK, not EWR as EY flies to JFK) and 3x weekly to YYZ. That's it.
    A possible 3rd a/c would be used up to 2x daily to AUH solely to cater for transit pax to all Asian, Australian and African destinations.

    It is in my opinion completely imposible for AS to ever operate a scheduled service to the East (further than Turkey) and to the South (further than Egypt) as long as EY is their partner (except destination AUH of course). EY would never allow AS to thwart own plans and concept and their top-priority which is and will remain their own brand EY.

    What JU will need is a network carrier in N.America as a code sharer - EY and AB both cooperate with AA, putting such agreement in place for JU is imho crucial or else they can reduce to 2x weekly ORD, JFK, YYZ each with only 1 long range a/c being sufficent.

    And please stop comparing JU with LO (39 Mio inhabs & >11 Mio pax from WAW+WMI) or even OS (22 Mio pax at VIE). We can talk abt that once BEG should ever have >11 Mio pax.

    1. Anonymous20:15

      This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    2. Anonymous20:19

      Well, it certainly won't help to boost their numbers by not flying to certain destinations, if i may add. We can see that in the case of Zagreb.

    3. Anonymous20:24

      So what are you saying is having 11 million pax is the condition for long-haul flying to the East? But how to have them in the first place if you're not flying to places that could BRING you such a number of pax? Look at BEY, it's A320 almost daily.

    4. AirCEO20:46

      Sure, let’s all become realistic:

      A – YU-ADP is not and will not be A319LR (and is not A319CJ). Looks likely A319-132 (ex EI-LIR, already painted in Air Serbia livery) will become APD.

      B – A319LR does not have the range for BEG-ORD nonstop. CJ could do it, but business jet config is certainly not what Air Serbia needs to start Chicago.

      C – AA is the ONLY US partner that makes sense. Only AA has hubs at both ORD and JFK. AC would make most sense for YYZ, as EY already codeshares with both AA and AC (and JetBlue). EY purchase of AZ could complicate things when it comes to alliances, but that’s just an assumption at this point.

      D – 2x week to North America is no longer competitive. It’s a nonstarter, esp for summer schedule. Go frequent or go home.

      E – LO is struggling to fill sparse, three class 787-8 (smaller then 787-9 you mention for Air Serbia) in winter to those same 3 destinations.

    5. Anonymous10:15

      Does it give you some sort of a kick to anonymously swear badly at others? Where is the Admin?? As I have to wonder who is lacking knowledge and objectiveness if you compare BEG with AUH and Serbia with Qatar and UAE from an aviation perspective!

      Also, LO of course can offer long haul services to the East as they do not have a restrictive partner to their East.
      (And yes, their business to the 3 NA dest. can't fill a larger plane than 788 - one more reason why an objective aviationist should be sceptical about the JU long haul plans if they had to be profitable.
      2x weekly to the 3 NA dest. is indeed unrealistic, but that is why JU will only start with ORD and again: in the long(er) run will add YYZ and JFK when a 2nd big bird becomes available.

    6. AirCEO15:17

      @Anon at 10:15

      "one more reason why an objective aviationist should be sceptical about the JU long haul plans if they had to be profitable"

      Absolutely agree on this point. I have been on the record for posting a challenge to BEG-ORD plans based on current numbers. It’s not impossible, but gap needs to be filled with either more regional feed or Etihad’s commitment to channel some AUH-ORD passengers through BEG as a top up for Air Serbia BEG-ORD especially in the winter. JV on AUH-BEG could help with that.

    7. Anonymous17:27

      Yes, exactly. If EY would route pax thru BEG that would sure help a lot. However, most pax from AUH are not local, and those transferring in AUH won't like to stop one more time, particularly in a country/region they most likely (sadly) won't even know... Let alone flying a leg in the middle of their journey with a med-haul a/c such as 319 (probably less comfy compared to wide body). But having a nice short transfer window at BEG for routing AUH-BEG-ORD (or JFK/YYZ and back) of 1,5-3hrs is half the battle!

    8. AirCEO21:10

      True, high yield passengers will prefer things like widebody comfort, US preclearance at Abu Dhabi and convenience of AUH-ORD nonstop. Still, competitive fares for AUH-BEG-ORD can do magic for filling Y seats in the back, and it’s my understanding Etihad already provides yield management services to Air Serbia so that should be a plus.

  15. Anonymous19:48

    That's nice +15% but whether it is in contradiction to what was said by the new management and is fair to the taxpayers who fund the Serbian venture ?

  16. Anonymous20:52

    OT: Is Air Serbia BEG-AUH service codeshare or JV with Etihad?

    1. Anonymous08:00

      It's a codeshare.

    2. AirCEO14:49

      JV would make more sense for both. Etihad invested in Air Serbia so why not spread the LF and share the revenue. Air Serbia would need to have IFE and onboard product in line with Etihad so guests would not care if flying on EY or JU metal.

  17. Anonymous21:34

    nisu mi potpuno jasne neke stvari: ako u ilinoisu zivi oko 250.000 srba, a u Americi oko 400.000, ako uzmemo da na godisnjem nivou procentualno u srbiju dolazi 5% tih ljudi, to onda znaci 20.000samo srba koji dolaze u srbiju i region, a gde su bosanci, hrvati iz blize okoline, mozda bugari, rumuni, grci (sto da ne), ja onda zaista mislim da bi letovi ka americkom kontinentu bili dobro popunjeni i to za cikago, nju jork i toronto. letovi ka aziji bi bili suvisni pre neke 2020. mada bih voleo direktan let za peking i bangkok. tokio ne bi bio uspesan. mozda u sezoni kao carter :)

  18. Anonymous21:54

    Prema sluzbenim pofacima u SAD-u ima 65.000 Srba.

    1. Anonymous00:12

      to su verovatno podaci ovih sto su izbegli 90ih.. tad ih je mnogo otislo..

  19. Anonymous01:38

    Ne to je cenzus. Statisticki podatak SAD-a. Jedini tacan i relevantan podatak.

    1. Nisam bas siguran da je cenzus (tj. popis) toliko relevantan u ovom slučaju. Ja lično znam dosta Srba druge generacije koji su rođeni ovde. Većina tih ljudi se izjašnjava kao Amerikanci ili Kanađani. Pored toga ne treba ih zaboraviti kao potencijalne putnike jer dosta njih i dalje imaju familije u regionu, a neki i svoju imovinu.

      IMO popis ovde zbog pitanja koja se postavljaju ne daje pravu sliku strukture stanovništva. Npr. u školskom okrugu gde živim po popisu ima oko 2% Srba. Međutim ako se gleda sastav učenika osnovnih škola, otprilike 30-40% su naša djeca (informacija dobijena od direktora skole)

  20. Anonymous17:27

    F$%# Delta! All of the U.S. majors need to shut-up. They should feel lucky that all of the mergers the last few years have been approved. I hope the DOJ wises up and blocks any future mergers (watch out for Delta going after Alaska.) This is not good for the consumer. The U.S. majors (and Lufthansa for that matter) need to stop interfering with competition.

    Same goes for all of the crying they are doing against Norwegian's transatlantic services.


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