Serbia prepares for transatlantic flights

Serbia to renegotiate bilateral air agreement with the US

Serbia is readying for the resumption of transatlantic flights to the United States for the first time in over a decade. Much of the focus so far has been on bureaucratic procedures. The country was recently upgraded from a category two to a category one status by the United Stated Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), allowing airlines registered in Serbia 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. James Hogan, the President and CEO of Etihad Airways and the Vice-Chairman of Air Serbia, recently confirmed flights from Belgrade to the US will operate with an Airbus A330 aircraft but warned, “For that to happen all conditions must be met and the numbers must stack up”. Chicago is tipped to be Air Serbia’s first destination in the States, to launch in late 2015 or during the 2016 summer season.

The Serbian Civil Aviation Directorate says the two countries must now renegotiate a bilateral air agreement in order for Air Serbia to launch flights to the United States. “Granting a category one status to operators registered in the Republic of Serbia opens an opportunity to establish direct flights to US and apply for approval from the US Department of Transport”, the Directorate says. It adds, “The category one approval is a tremendous recognition and an indication that the civil aviation sector in Serbia meets the highest safety standards both in Europe and the US. The next step will be to sign a modified bilateral air services agreement between Serbia and the US”. Last week the Serbian Prime Minister and the US Ambassador to Serbia discussed the possibility of concluding an Open Skies agreement between the two countries. The agreement would allow any airline from Serbia and any airline from the United States to fly between any point in Serbia and any point in the US. Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro concluded such agreements with the US in 2005 and 2011 respectively. Slovenia and Croatia, as part of the European Union, enjoy such rights, while Macedonia has applied for Open Skies in 2012 based on comity and reciprocity.

The acting CEO of Belgrade Nikola Tesla Airport, Saša Vlaisavljević, said on Monday the airport is also preparing for the resumption of flights to the United States. “With the planned development in infrastructure, the airport will be ready for the announced long haul flights and will have the ability to handle an even greater number of transfer passengers. Our most important task is to upgrade our infrastructure and take advantage of Air Serbia’s strong growth. We will provide even greater logistical support to our national carrier so that it can become the most successful in this part of Europe”, Mr. Vlaisavljević said. The last time Serbia was linked with the US was in 2004 when Uzbekistan Airways operated flights from Belgrade to New York for a short period of time.


  1. Anonymous09:29

    Investigation in Darwin/Etihad deal by Swiss government, Jat/Etihat deal by EU commission and from today in Air Berlin/Etihad investigation by Germany government. It looks like Etihad comes to hindsight…

    1. Anonymous09:46

      The EC 'investigation' into Air Serbia was not a formal investigation and was actually a request for additional information and has been closed. You will see this in the EC report on Serbia in a few days. Surprising how people who are uninformed, like the comment below mentioning how Beirut and Tel Aviv are seasonal are the first one to comment.

    2. Anonymous09:52

      Thank God we have people like you to deal with our sins of misinformation.

  2. Anonymous09:31

    I don't get it... why expand into the US when they don't even fly year-round to places like Tel Aviv or Beirut which are very important when it comes to the U.S. flights. There are also so many other cities they should consider flying to before even thinking of the U.S.: St. Petersburg, Baku, Barcelona, Oslo, Cairo... all these can be served with the A319.

    I just think that its premature for an airline with 2 million passengers to be thinking of transatlantic flights. Maybe when they pass the 3 million mark.

    1. Anonymous09:44

      What are you talking about? Tel Aviv and Beirut are year round and Air Serbia flies there during the winter.

    2. Anonymous09:51

      I meant daily flights on a year-round basis. Beirut will be three weekly and Tel Aviv four. Quite bad if you ask me.

    3. Anonymous09:53

      We can also add that they have already suspended the night flight into Skopje. :(

    4. Anonymous09:54

      Why would you fly daily somewhere if it is not profitable? Flying daily to Tel Aviv is not a prerequisite for USA flights which are more than a year away at the earliest. Remember what Jat looked like a year ago and look where we are now. Things change.

    5. Go home anonymous, you're drunk.

    6. Well, no one said that the airline is no better than Jat Airways. It was merely pointed out that by the time you launch US flights you should have a strong brand awareness in Israel. Reducing flights from daily to 4 weekly indicate that:

      1. The loads might have been good but not the yields.
      2. Someone in the sales department did not do their job.
      3. Or simply they do not have the necessary aircraft to operate these flights. Unlike Beirut, Larnaca or Athens (the night flight), Tel Aviv operates during the day when the aircraft could have been better utilised elsewhere.

      Still, if they plan on flying to Chicago then the Israeli and the Greek market should be their top priority. According to the airline's website Greece will also see cuts. Not good when it comes to the long-term strategy.

      There are times when you have to lose money in order to make it.

    7. I read that the top unserved market from Athens airport is actually Chicago, there are around 85.000 passengers per year. That's around 233 passengers per day. Not bad.

    8. JATBEGMEL21:46

      Alot here forget that things have changed from the days of Jat Airways. This management has turned the airline around more than 360. If they saw the business sense on keeping alot of the double dailies and the extra capacity, then they would of kept it. That doesnt mean it will not return in march. Even with this reduced capacity we will still see more flights by Air Serbia than we had with Jat

    9. Anonymous22:06

      All airlines make seasonal adjustments to their capacity - that is the nature of European short haul flying - especially over the winter mths were the demand is clearly and obviously lower than it is in the summer. Why else have airlines reduced their capacity to the Croatian coast, Turkey and Greece during the winter ?The difference this winter, is that Air Serbia is 1 year into its operation, so just like EVERY OTHER AIRLINE IN EUROPE, so too is Air Serbia making the necessary capacity adjustments, based on the experience gained after 12 mths of flying. They were starting out last year and had to deploy aircraft and capacity as it came into the fleet. An airline looking to employ an additional 50 pilots is not going anywhere other than forward....

    10. Anonymous22:13

      Nemjee - go and find something better to do with your time - like read up on the principle of supply and demand ... Airlines constantly aim to match both - deploy capacity where there is demand and take it out where there isn't. Both Tel Aviv and Beirut have significantly greater demand over the summer mths and much less demand over the winter mths. Look at what both MEA and AF do on the Beirut route during summer and winter and your confusion should be put to rest. the same applies with El Al ..... Your assumptions are incorrect, like most of the things you post on this blog

    11. Actually, if you bothered to read what I wrote further down then you would realize that I have nothing against winter reductions. However, I do have when it comes to reducing one's presence in large, lucrative and important markets such as Tel Aviv (and to a lesser extent Beirut).
      The market is big enough, Israel has all kinds of passengers: business, pilgrims, tourists, massive diaspora, religious groups of all kinds...

      So when Air Serbia decides to reduce its presence to just four weekly flights, it can only be a sign that something went wrong, that is that the airline failed to position itself as an important carrier in the country and among the Jewish diaspora living across Europe.

      The crippled and failing airline, Cyprus Airways, will operate six weekly flights into Tel Aviv onboard their A320. They are predominantly relying on transfer passengers mostly to London, Paris and Amsterdam. It's also worth mentioning that UP! inaugurated their own Larnaca flights taking away a large share of the O&D market. There is also Arkia which, in summer, sends its B757-300 to bring in the tourists to the island. In winter it sends its Atr.

      Then we have Tarom which is trying to build its own hub in Bucharest yet this winter season they will operate 8 weekly flights into Tel Aviv where four will be operated with the A310. Mind you, Bucharest does not have a lot of Jews (unlike Budapest) and its population is not centred around the capital but it is spread out around the country. However, Tarom has been present in TLV for years now and they have positioned themselves as an important carrier there. I would also like to add that they are competing with Wizz Air in Tel Aviv which operates flights from both Cluj-Napoca and Bucharest. In the whole of Romania there are a bit more than 3.000 Jews, down from 5.700 in 2002.

      Another interesting airline is Aegean which will have six weekly flights onboard their A320. To make things interesting, here is another airline which does not have a lot of O&D to rely upon to fill these seats. We can see this from their schedule as well as from the fact that the pre-WW2 Jewish population was centred around Thessaloniki, not Athens.

      These are three relatively small airlines which will operate a greater number of frequencies into Tel Aviv this winter season. If we look back and see what kind of schedule Malév had then we will all be put to shame. In winter they used to have daily flights into Beirut, 9 weekly into Tel Aviv and daily into Larnaca. In summer, they would have two B737-800 flying at the same time to Beirut and at times half of the B738 would be filled with Lebanese from Belgium.

      All in all, the thing is that the market is there. Some airlines are better than others at capturing it. I have given you the example of three airlines which have a decent enough presence in Israel despite facing fierce competition from Turkish Airlines and from Pegasus (more recently).

      Don't get me wrong, despite everything I still want Air Serbia to succeed. However, I will not ignore some facts and some mistakes. I think that reducing Tel Aviv to 4 weekly is a sign that someone in the sales department was too afraid to actually do their job. ;)

      Regards and all the best. :)

  3. This is very bad news for B&H Airlines. I think we will see the Istanbul scenario all over again. It's even worse for them since this is a route that was doing very well for them and there were times when more passengers boarded in Banja Luka than they did in Sarajevo, which is logical anyway.

    I think that Edelweiss will steal the remaining passengers, especially since the flying experience is so much better on the A320 than on the Atr-72.
    One advantage JA has is that these flights will be operated seasonally which means that their monopoly will be reinstated just after the summer season.

    I think credit should be given to Air Serbia since they have managed to turn Banja Luka into a success story. We have seen way too many airlines failing there, even Jat Airways. Regardless of all this, it's nice to see even more movement in Banja Luka! :)

  4. Dobra vest za pocetak oktobra. Meseca u kojem Srbija obelezava pocetak letova nacionalne avio kompanije AIR SERBIA. Nastala iz AERO PUTA, kasnije Jat Airwaysa.... Novi pocetak letova za USA jeste vise nego dobar povod da se jedan od medjunarodnih terminala na Cikaskom Ohera i (ili) Njujorskom J F Kenedy da ime Amerikanca NIKOLA TESLA. Na terminal sa Njegovim imenom bi pristajali avionic Er Srbija. Sa aerodrome NIKOLA TESLA na terminal sa istim imenom. Zaista istinski pravi, ljudski povod da Teslino ime obelezi izmedju ostalog u Americi bar JEDAN vazdusni terminal. Veliki Tesla je to zasluzio, USA to zasluzuju. Novi pocetak radja nove nade, mogucnosti, novog veka koji je pred nama. Nadajmo se da ce ova ideja stici do usiju Njegove Ekselencije Ambasadora USA u Beogradu. Prirodno i drugih revalentnih u administraciji Srbije i USA, kojima bi ovaj predlog bio plemenit, ljudski i primenljiv. Nadam se da je teze izgraditi terminal nego mu podariti Teslino ime... Zasto bi ovo bio smo zelja. Dobri ljudi dobro stvaraju. Pa sta je Tesla drugo u zivotu radio za Ameriku, svet i sve nas u njemu, izuzev dobra.
    I have dream! Woth about you?...
    Rodney & associated. Kraljevo /// Sydney.

  5. Anonymous10:35

    A320 went to Ljubljana this morning!!!

    1. Anonymous12:23

      Yes, 144pax to lju, 104 back to beg. Thats a record

  6. Anonymous11:19

    Is it? I remember
    1. that they said that they will cut prices as last attempt for route to survive (information from this blog).
    2. Then they cut capacity by using Etihad Regional smaller planes,
    3. and now they even cut frequencies to just 4 weekly (it was 7 weekly last winter with ATR-72 and that is cut of more than 50% concerning that 3 of those 4 flights would be with 50-seater this winter)

    This is not success but desperate moves to try to make this route existing.

  7. Anonymous11:22

    All four flights will operate with an ATR72. Etihad Regional will no longer fly to Banja Luka.

  8. If I remember correctly, the three weekly flights operated by Etihad Regional were introduced so as to enable the launch of Pula flights.

    And anyway, unlike its predecessors, Air Serbia has actually managed to fill its Atrs which is still a success. We all remember that Jat Airways had an average loadfactor of 20% while Adria carried between 3 and 5 passengers per flight.

    The reason why the price was cut was because Republika Srpska and Serbia agreed to suspend a tax, it was not ASL which was at a loss here.

    Also, many destinations are being reduced, I guess it is normal Banja Luka should be one of them.

  9. Anonymous12:30

    True, many of them are reduced, but Banja Luka for sure is also cut to half.

    It is not true that price were cut just because of suspending taxes. Air Serbia precisely said they will dramatically cut prices because of taxes suspending and their own cutting because it is LAST measure to try to make this route survive.

    As they cut frequencies to almost half than last winter it was not last measure, as we can see, and this route has questionable future.

  10. Anonymous12:36

    This forcing of US flights in last few weeks is just to make Air Serbia looking good few days before announcement of huge cutting in frequencies and even routes (some all year now becomes seasonal) in winter time-table.

    For North America routes Hogan said „IF…“ (there was no „if“ in previous announcements), so that “if” is huge one and it is his way to say slow down, it is not real in near future. That is just excuse for previous announcements, because now he can say “if” did not happened, and he will again be serious in announcements. And Vučić with his promises, well, he was never serious and real, so it is nothing new.

    1. Anonymous12:50

      This is not true at all. None of the routes, except for Varna which has already gone seasonal are becoming seasonal. There is also no "huge cutting in frequencies" since 98% of flights will be up on last winter. Stop hating and making things up to make yourself feel better.

    2. Anonymous13:03

      Agreed. Also we all know what kind of propaganda machinery Mr Wolf has. At the moment, an airline with two million pax has a small chance to succeed. If it was three million,bit would be better. I believe there will be flights, but in late 2015 or 2016. Until then, these speculations make me tired.

      Also, you remember how B92 always had news about which airlines left Belgrade? Some of them were posted even twice (for Wizz and Germanwings and Swiss).

      Now, they haven't reported about any of easyJET lines that were ceased (Milan or Rome) .

      George Orwell, 1984.

    3. Anonymous13:32

      Uh, the longhaul plans are for 2015-2016. It takes a few seasonal cycles to get the transit pax flowing through BEG and to position the airline for longhaul.

    4. Anonymous13:40

      Cutting in frequencies are higher than just 2%. Just wait when ExYu will put that nice table comparing winter 2013 and winter 2014 for Air Serbia. Some of routes have more than 50% cuts in frequencies. Varna was not planned to be seasonal, it was on last winter so that is why I said "even".

    5. Anonymous13:50

      Air Serbia is not 2 million passengers airline. Concerning winter cuts it will have 1,7-1,8 mllion passengers in 2014, and for sure that is 1,5 million same as 2,0 million passengers.

    6. Anonymous15:54

      Varna was not flown last winter...

    7. Anonymous16:13

      Anonymous at 1:50 PM
      Znaci ASL nije nista pa nema ni 100000 pax, sluzi samo za prevoz krompira za OMAA
      Nema veze koliko prevezu putnika najvajznije je da imaju NAJBOLJE Pilote :)

    8. Anonymous20:52

      You didn't read this from my post.

    9. JATBEGMEL21:41

      There is still some changes to the timetable that will kick in shortly. AUH will for example be flown 2 x daily instead of the 1 x daily it is now. With Etihad Regional leaving BEG, the BNX route will for sure see some changes. Some increases expected from BEG will not happen, but there will be more news soon.

      Having said that, the timetables are the airlines least of issues. Many new things have changed internally. JU will soon be in its new office, which should be next to Delta City in New Belgrade (the glass building next to Belville) and across from the location of the new central bus station. Service is still great even on full flights, with alot of crew interaction even with kids, to which they even provide colour books and pencils for them.

      Ground staff do alot of work and work very hard for their salaries. This increase in flights means they need to hire more people to work. Alot of controls are happening to improve efficiency and to ensure people are working. A couple workers have been fired for not following guidlines and standards.

      As for the intercontinental flights, they will happen sooner than some think. The first regular wide body flights if not from JU will come from EK who are close to launching flights to BEG. Recently EK set up their chauffer drive facility in Belgrade for EK pax.

      @ INN

      ne smaraj i lupetaj.

    10. Anonymous21:56

      Air Serbia will hit 2m passengers during the month of Nov - sorry to disappoint the person writing the earlier comment ... I know it must hurt like hell ...

    11. Anonymous22:21

      JATBEGMEL when you say :" there will be be more news" are you suggesting that they will be announcing new destinations starting from march lets say.

    12. Anonymous22:38

      Meni se vise zgadilo pjluvanje po ASL po ovom blogu pa nekada lupetam.
      Mozete mi slobodno odgovarati razumem ga jako dobro ;)

    13. Anonymous22:40

      You heard it here first - don't be surprised if Beijing gets on the list of new destinations in 2015. This will get announced during the upcoming visit of the Chinese premier in BEG in Dec

    14. Anonymous23:52

      what other destinations are rumored? I am not worried about the fact that Air Serbia is reducing their operations now since during winter there is around 40 less traffic, but I am expecting ASL to start around 3 routes in Europe, CAI, and maybe AMM.

    15. Anonymous04:15

      Air Serbia announcing flights to China from BEG would capture headlines here, but let's not forget the real reason for widebody aircraft at Air Serbia: North America. If that doesn't go ahead, there is no economically sound reason for A330 at Air Serbia at this time. China is amazing and growing market, but let's face it: North America or bust.

      At this stage it is critical that Serbia's negotiators do everything they can to fulfill any outstanding requests from the US regarding bilateral ATA or OpenSkies. So if they say, for example, "cancel Putin's visit and we'll approve", I'd say "Done! Where do I sign!!!"

    16. Anonymous05:35

      @4.15am This strange logic is precisely why Serbia has one of lowest salaries in Europe. Nothing against the Yanks but our economic relationship with Russia is far more beneficial.

    17. JATBEGMEL20:26

      Flights to PEK might even start before the N. American destinations. I wouldnt be surprised to see it fly to AUH where it will fly onwards to another destination on behalf of EY. Problem is slots, with those allocated to UAE carriers being divided mainly between EY and EK. Serbia wouldnt have such problems, rather could compliment EY. Lets say that EY wanted to increase capacity to Australia to which I dont think it can under the current agreement, a solution could be to send the JU A330 to fly to PER, and the EY slots being used in PER could go for increasing frequencies say to MEL which is currently 1 x daily.

      Regarding the salaries, the wages in JU have increased and for a change are regularly being payed and in full (basic + flying pay). Speaking of the country in general, if our people actually worked for a salary like in the west the situation would be much different - we would have salaries like in the west. In Serbia we still have that horrible mentality of getting jobs via a political party or better still via family or family friend etc.

  11. Anonymous14:17

    Moze da se desi da jedan deo 789 od BER zavrsi u ASL tako je receno juce da ce otici u neke kompanije iz Alliance.
    ASL ce leteti vec sledece godine nemojte za dzabe da placete nije vam niko criv sto CTN nije sposoban za to ;)
    I nadam se da ce ASL ili Aviolet barem preko zime leteti za LOWI:

    1. Anonymous14:57

      Opasno ssmarasss...

  12. Of course, I agree with you but I was talking about the final price drop. That one was thanks to the removal of a certain tax. All the previous ones were at the expense of Air Serbia. Personally I think it's great that they got rid of the extra taxes as most of them just harm the industry.

    It will be interesting to see what will become of the winter timetable to Banja Luka now that Etihad Regional is suspending Belgrade flights. They were supposed to operate 3/4 weekly rotations.

    The sad thing is that even if they do decide to get the sixth Atr, the problem is that BEG needs to get more bus gates. The three they have now are really not enough.

  13. Just to add, the best and fastest way to solve the problem with the bus gates would be to remove the rusting junk in the area under the A9 and A10 gates and to use the empty space to build two/three bus gates. There is more than enough space and these could be used to service flights when they are parked at the B positions. I remember it happened four or five times that the Atr was at a B position while the gate was C7. It's a long bus ride and God forbid an aircraft is being pushed back from one of the last gates.

    If they did this they could also expand the terminal area around the A8-A10 gates where they could add (much needed) cafés or shops.

  14. AirCEO19:20

    EX YU Admin, big thank you for reporting on this critical topic. Proves once again why this blog has better sense for relevant topics than any other site/blog about ex yu or Serbian aviation. Please keep us informed when more details become publicly available on the progress of OpenSkies/bilateral ATA negotiations. Thanks!

  15. Anonymous20:50

    Of course as long that route survive more and more passengers will get used to it. But to cut it from every day to just 3 or 4 flight per week is not good for people who should get habbut to fly to and via BEG.

  16. Anonymous22:21

    Where has Dusan gone ???? Please come back - I miss your mischievous rumors and comments !!!

  17. Anonymous00:59

    I don't think that Air Serbia won't make some profit with flights to US, maybe only Chicago... I think Etihad should operate his flights from Abu Dhabi to destinations like JFK and YYZ via Belgrade and take there some passengers, and then continue to the US... Maybe Air Serbia should first spread their network in Europe, and then open flights to the Us.

    1. Anonymous01:01

      *I mean I dont think that Air Serbia will make some profit with flights to the US


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