China becomes Belgrade’s top unserved air travel market


China has emerged as one of the top unserved markets to and from Belgrade since visa restrictions between the two countries were mutually lifted in 2017, with travel reaching a record high in 2019, prior to the coronavirus pandemic. Figures for that year show that Belgrade’s overall top unserved route was Shanghai, followed by Beijing, with Aeroflot profiting the most from the China - Serbia travel growth. A total of 145.248 passengers travelled between the two countries in 2019 (excluding Hong Kong and Taiwan). Of those, 62.518 flew to or from Shanghai, or around 43% of all China travellers. It was followed by Beijing with 52.123 passengers and Guangzhou with 14.087 travellers. A total of 576 people flew indirectly to Belgrade from Wuhan, which would become the epicentre of the coronavirus pandemic just a year later.

Belgrade was the eleventh busiest unserved route from Shanghai and the seventh busiest European market without flights to China's largest city. Most of the traffic flow between China and Serbia over the past few years has originated from Shanghai. This is in part because the largest portion of Chinese nationals residing in Serbia have their origins in two provinces south of the Shanghai region. Overall, Moscow Sheremetyevo was the top connecting airport for travellers between Serbia and China with 69.456 opting to transfer via the Russian capital. It was followed by Doha and Abu Dhabi. As a result, Aeroflot, which introduced a third daily service to Belgrade in the winter of 2019/2020 before Covid-19 struck, was the number one feeder carrier. It was followed by Qatar Airways and Etihad Airways, which has since terminated its service to Belgrade.

The Serbian capital was briefly served by Hainan Airlines from Beijing in 2017 with a stop in Prague, however, flights were suspended a year later due to low demand. In May of last year, Serbia’s President, Aleksandar Vučić, noted, “Serbia is very popular in China due to its friendly relations and we are considering for Air Serbia to launch flights to the country in the coming period, with assistance from China. We are in discussions”. Travel between Serbia and China plummeted in 2020 due to the global health emergency. Travel in and out of the Asian country remains tightly regulated due to Covid-19.

Top five busiest China - Serbia routes in 2019


If you would like to find out the full list of the busiest unserved routes from Belgrade, of which three of the top five are in Asia, subscribe for this week’s EX-YU Aviation Premium Newsletter here.


Comments

  1. Anonymous09:03

    wow very interesting. Who would have thought.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Anonymous10:48

      I read an article recently on world passport rankings which referenced henleypassportindex.com. Serbia (ranked 38th) must be the only European country that has Visa-free travel to EU/Russia/China. I think that's pretty cool. So, in addition to Chinese residents and the large-scale infrastructure projects currently under way, this free travel is a factor. On the negative side, it is not the best passport for Anglo-run nations like UK/USA/Canada/Australia with whom Serbia should introduce reciprocal measures because it is starting to look stupid now.

      Delete
  2. Anonymous09:03

    Actually Hainan discontinued BEG because the local authority that was subsidizing those flights no longer wanted to do so.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Anonymous09:05

      Which would indicate the route was unprofitable. Hainan authority subsisdises most routes for 1 year.

      Delete
    2. Anonymous09:06

      Of course it was unprofitable when it operated with a PRG stop.

      Delete
    3. Anonymous09:13

      Why did the government, embassy go after linking Beijing and Belgrade when the demand is obviously for Shanghai.

      Delete
    4. Anonymous09:14

      I think the whole plan was poorly executed but also JU codeshare was extremely expensive and ineffective so that ddn't help either. Actually JU codeshares are always so expensive, that department is really useless.

      Delete
    5. Anonymous09:14

      Because Beijing is the capital and the seat of the government.

      Delete
    6. Anonymous09:18

      Hainan Group had extremely huge financial problems. Their chairman perished in Paris. Not looking into good shape.

      Delete
    7. Anonymous09:20

      @9.13
      Because that's what you get when bureaucrats get mixed up in aviation.

      Delete
    8. Anonymous09:23

      Or maybe because Hainan was willing to launch flights and they happen to be based in Beijing.

      Delete
    9. Anonymous09:55

      09:06
      But how is then SQ doing good with triangle routes in Europe and US? Or Emirates?

      Delete
    10. Anonymous11:08

      2 completely different things

      Delete
    11. Anonymous11:09

      EK doesn't operate any triangle routes in Europe. They even cut DXB-LCA-MLA.

      Delete
    12. Anonymous11:48

      They operated it and it was succesful during normal times. And continent doesnt matter, only things that matter is will it woek.

      Delete
    13. JATBEGMEL14:34

      The tag LCA-MLA-LCA allowed for the aircraft to be back in DXB for the 3am wave to better facilitate transfers (Asia/Australia), while not keeping an aircraft on ground for hours in LCA (crew legalities), as well as tapping into the MLA market.

      I wouldnt say successful as theyve been playing with MLA for years (direct, via MLA, via TIP, via TUN).

      Delete
  3. Anonymous09:03

    That's quite a lot of passengers from/to Shanghai. The route could work with very good loads twice per week year round.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Anonymous09:03

    WE WANT CHINA FLIGHTS!

    ReplyDelete
  5. Anonymous09:03

    Time for Air Serbia to launch Shanghai.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Anonymous09:04

    Air Serbia should have started Shanghai.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Anonymous09:05

      With what? :D

      Delete
    2. Anonymous09:06

      With an A330-200.

      Delete
    3. Anonymous09:06

      Well with A330

      Delete
  7. Anonymous09:06

    Shanghai is much more logical route to BEG then PEK.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Anonymous09:09

      There would definitely be more O&D traffic.

      Delete
    2. Anonymous16:35

      Then PEK, or than PEK? Big difference in meaning.

      Delete
    3. Anonymous00:22

      He obviously meant than

      Delete
  8. Anonymous09:06

    Aeroflot was winning big time with China transfers.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Anonymous09:09

      No wonder they planned 3 daily in 2020.

      Delete
    2. Anonymous09:11

      Well they did not only plan it, they executed it in winter 2019.

      Delete
  9. Anonymous09:07

    JU should take the chance and start to fly triangle flights BEG-PVG-PEK-BEG

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Anonymous09:10

      +1

      Delete
    2. Anonymous09:11

      That would be suicide because it would make them uncompetitive. Age of triangle flights is long gone.

      Delete
    3. Anonymous09:36

      Demand for two destinations seems too small to me.

      Delete
    4. Anonymous09:39

      Trends would change if you launched nonstop flights. The figures in the article are just O&D. You would get a lot of transfers on these flights on both ends.

      Delete
    5. Anonymous09:54

      I see probeblem in competition. TK, SU and QR are doing very well in BEG and that is not soo good for an airline which would launch flights. I hope that BEG will get them one day, but it doesnt seems so possible when projectons are saying that recovery for long haul will last longer. I doubt any chinese airline will go in an adventure in BEG considering whats going on now.

      Delete
    6. Anonymous11:07

      Anon 09:39
      Well, Air China is succesful with triagle route PEK-MSQ-BUD. There is demand so it works.

      Delete
  10. Anonymous09:10

    Would never have thought that. Very interesting.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Anonymous09:11

    Shanghai has potential. Once corona is over it can be used by business people, expats and tourists. I'm also sure there would cargo traffic on this route.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Anonymous09:15

      How many Chinese tourists were there in Serbia in 2019? Maybe once they hit the 500.000 mark flights could happen.

      Delete
    2. Anonymous09:15

      I suppose QR profits as well? After all they had 10 weekly to BEG

      Delete
    3. Anonymous09:17

      Obviously. It says int he article:

      "As a result, Aeroflot, which introduced a third daily service to Belgrade in the winter of 2019/2020 before Covid-19 struck, was the number one feeder carrier. It was followed by Qatar Airways and Etihad Airways"

      Delete
    4. Anonymous09:20

      There were 144k Chinese tourists in 2019

      Delete
  12. Anonymous09:14

    There is also lot of people traveling to Hong Kong and then transferring to mainland China. Many of the travelers to Shenzhen & Guangzhou were using this route because you can transfer directly from HK airport by car, train or ferry.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Anonymous09:20

    love this data. Thanks :)

    ReplyDelete
  14. Anonymous09:26

    Love it!

    ReplyDelete
  15. Anonymous09:29

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

    ReplyDelete
  16. Anonymous09:33

    "A total of 576 people flew indirectly to Belgrade from Wuhan, which would become the epicentre of the coronavirus pandemic just a year later."

    :D

    ReplyDelete
  17. Anonymous09:37

    What's interesting is that the number of Chinese tourists to Serbia did not decrease when Hainan flights were cancelled.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Anonymous09:43

      Which shows that Hainan was flying empty to BEG.

      Delete
    2. Anonymous09:46

      Which shows that passengers did not like connection in PRG

      Delete
    3. Anonymous10:10

      Or they where not interested to come in Serbia in larger numbers with direct flight becasue there were a lot of transfer options.

      Delete
    4. Anonymous11:10

      Or that tourist numbers grew regardless of flights offered.

      Delete
    5. Anonymous11:49

      How does that has any connection with my comment?

      Delete
  18. Anonymous09:39

    You would think some European city would be top unserved. Interesting.

    ReplyDelete
  19. Anonymous09:43

    Vinci should really target getting flights to Shanghai. Shanghai not only offers excellent transfer opportunities to other important Chinese domestic destinations, it also serves as a hub for people travelling to Japan, South Korea, other countries in Southeast Asia, and to Australia or New Zealand.

    ReplyDelete
  20. Anonymous09:45

    Crazy that there are no flights between Belgrade and Shanghai.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Anonymous00:23

      It will happen sooner or later.

      Delete
  21. Anonymous09:49

    Interesting about most Chinese being from two provinces near Shanghai. When did the current Chinese community settle in Serbia?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Anonymous09:53

      In late 90s, that's when they start arriving

      Delete
    2. Anonymous09:54

      The biggest move was in late 90s early 2000 as above anon rightly says. Slobo abolished visas and many of them used it to escape to EU. That is why JAT started flights to Beijing in 1998. When Slobo was toppled the EU requested for the JU flights to be suspended and for visas to be reintroduced. During these migrations, naturally thousands of Chinese stayed in Serbia.

      Delete
    3. Anonymous09:58

      Thanks. Very interesting.

      Delete
    4. Anonymous10:03

      And to think now they can travel to Serbia without a visa and the EU has no problem with it.

      Delete
    5. Anonymous10:35

      Well it is a very different time now. China then and now are two different worlds.

      Delete
    6. @An.09.54.
      JAT did not start flights to PEK in 1998. The first time JAT tried PEK was 1977 with B707 via Karachi. The first attempt was not successful. China was still closed at the time. The only two European airlines to fly to China at that time were Swiss Air, once weekly to Peking, on DC-8, and Air France, once weekly to Shanghai on B707. After couple of years, being unprofitable, the service was terminated. Second JAT attempt to China was 1986, when JAT started seriously growing its long-haul network with scheduled Montreal and Toronto, Detroit, Kuala Lumpur, Calcutta, Beijing, Bangkok, Los Angeles, and plans for more (Bombay, Seoul, Tokyo, Johannesburg, Caracas, Washington, Houston, Miami, San Francisco) Those flight to Beijing were operated via Calcutta, in times when China started to open to the World, and unlike before, flights were profitable. This "story" with PEK just shows how wrong are people who claim JAT was operating political and non profitable routes. And it is true that PEK restarted in 1998, but as the third attempt, and by an airline which was definitely not JAT any more at that time, even if it carried the name.

      Delete
    7. Anonymous12:47

      JAT was profitabile and succesful but i doubt it will be the same in these times. They had less competition then airlines today so it was expected to operate routes like these and make profit.

      Delete
    8. Sorry, but I can't agree with you completely. JAT had direct competition on all long-haul markets. Pan American had operated from New York and Washington to BEG, ZAG and DBV. Air Canada had operated to ZAG. Air China, which was called CAAC at the time had operated from China to BEG. Qantas had operated to BEG as well. Varig of Brasil and Air India had pool cooperation. On European continent, only Iberia, Sabena and Olympic did not operate to Yugoslavia from the markets served by JAT, all other airlines did, and even on domestic market there was competition with Adria (and others, but mostly Adria on major domestic routes). Also both Adria and Aviogenex competed in charter segment. Generally what you say is true, there were no LCC'S, and generally the offer, and competition were not that huge as today, as today we have inflation of airlines everywhere, but particularly, JAT had faced fierce competition everywhere, or almost everywhere it had flown

      Delete
    9. Anonymous15:11

      I didnt say they didnt have a competition, but that they had less competition. And competition isnt only direct one, but and indirect one. How many of these flights towards long haul markets would be profitabile today when you only have LH offering in normal times up to 12 daily flights to the region. And they have amazing connections. And include to that all other airlines which do offer connections and multiple daily flights. Simply JAT wouldnt be able to compete with all these airlines on small market as ex yu.

      Delete
    10. Disagree again. Two airlines with the fastest and biggest growth after the disintegration of Yugoslavia are Turkish and Austrian. Do you think that's just like that? It is not. If Yugoslavia didn't have wars and mafia organizations which after the wars continued to control the ex-yu republics, and if JAT remained as flag carrier, it would be competitive and profitable even today on major long-haul markets it operated before. Of course, with moderated operations model, probably with no Cleveland, Detroit and similar flights, no direct Australia because of MEB3, but major destinations in the North America and the Far East, on frequent nonstop flights, with one hub (BEG), tourist potentials of the entire ex-yu, immigration/diaspora, and feed from surrounding countries/regions, in addition to tradition and history, and some operational costs lower than to the west, would result in profitable company transporting serious number of passengers now being funnelled to LH, TK, OS, BA, AF, KL, and the likes

      Delete
    11. Anonymous15:38

      You really think JAT had same competition then as it would today? Immposible, neoliberalization changed aviation industry totally.

      Delete
    12. No, I already wrote that generally competition is much much bigger today. But I think you underestimate the size of ex-yu market, and position JAT had on the market because of its quality, history, hub location, feeding markets, developed network... Because of that I am absolutely sure JAT would be big and profitable even today, despite of all the competition, of course if we had normal overall development which all others you mention did have

      Delete
    13. poz from Riki, I appreciate your insight and commentary on history of JAT. I tend to agree with you. You must have been JAT big shot years ago. ;-) Cheers mate.

      Delete
    14. @Charlie
      I was the biggest shot for my Mum and Dad :) But same like them, I 'll never forget JAT, my first love :) Thanks mate! Cheers!

      Delete
  22. Anonymous09:49

    Once market settles, I have a feeling JU will be heading to China.

    ReplyDelete
  23. Anonymous10:35

    Air Serbia has a huge potential here, because it also serves some of the other top unserved European routes from Shanghai, and little bit advertising in China, and there you go: Shangai-BEG-Shanghai could work.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Anonymous11:10

      They can get cheaper equipment for that now.

      Delete
  24. Anonymous10:49

    Why it didn't happen:

    - BEG-PVG-BEG is probably more than 24h rotation -> suboptimal use of equipment
    - point of sale heavily on the Chinese side -> Chinese prefer to use Chinese airlines - a setback for JU
    - a lot of pax are construction workers in Serbia -> price sensitive
    - no transfers for JU on the PVG/PEK side - a great deal of those Chinese pax are actually tranfering at PVG/PEK to fly onwards to their places all over in China - they are not really from PVG/ PEK - it would work differently for a Chinese airline with transfer possibilities on the Chinese side

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. JATBEGMEL15:45

      PVG would be slightly over 24 hours. They could use the aircraft between rotations to another destination ie 2 routes on 1 ac.

      For example:
      BEG PVG 1350 0720+1
      PVG BEG 0900 1420

      BEG YYZ 1700 2100
      YYZ BEG 2230 1215

      Its tight, but doable.

      Connections on the Chinese side could work with either interline or a new codeshare agreement, which I'm sure will be signed.

      Another thing to look at is cargo, which especially for the next couple of years will be an important factor.

      Delete
  25. Anonymous11:00

    Ex-yu, which are the other top ten unserved routes from Shanghai?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dusseldorf was the busiest unserved route, followed by Manchester, Cairo, Penang, Sao Paulo, Venice, Athens, Hamburg, Berlin and Johannesburg

      Delete
  26. Anonymous11:05

    Does Air China fly from Shanghai to European cities?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Anonymous11:08

      Before Covid, yes

      Delete
    2. Anonymous11:16

      Yes they flew to Barcelona, Frankfurt, Milan, Munich and Paris.

      Delete
  27. Anonymous11:05

    Come on Belgrade, we can do it!

    ReplyDelete
  28. Anonymous11:20

    What is interesting is that BUD has 5 Chinese connections, while visas are currently required for them to enter EU and Hungary. Currently from BUD there non-stop flights from to: PEK, PVG, CKG, CTU & XIY. That's even more than WAW I guess!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Anonymous11:41

      Who knows if they will all return.

      Delete
    2. Anonymous11:43

      Hungary and China are very close. Lots of Chinese businesses in Hungary and big Chinese population living in Hungary now.

      Delete
    3. Anonymous11:49

      Where is this Chinese population in Hungary? Is it Budapest?

      Delete
    4. Anonymous13:32

      Hungary has invested a lot into those flights, same like with Sarajevo.

      The first flight to Chongqing had like 25 passengers.

      Delete
    5. Anonymous07:59

      Guys don't forget that Hungary is in the Schengen zone meaning passengers can start their journey there. I am sure BUD gave them a much better price than VIE which before covid had no more space. Budapest was an entry point for many of these Chinese. Many tour operators sell Budapest and Vienna as a single tour.

      Delete
  29. Anonymous11:23

    To get transfer passengers Beijing would make more sense though, simple codeshare with Air China or China Southern would transfer the pax to SHA, CAN, and other chinese places...
    Anyway it would still be hard to compete with Turkish Airlines for this traffic, hence I don't see it as a profitable operation for JU...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Anonymous11:57

      +100
      Not only TK, but SU, QR, FZ, LH, LO, OS... i dont think these chinese routes would have positive impact on JU at all. It is better to have chinese airlines to operate these then JU.

      Delete
  30. Anonymous11:41

    I honestly believe this is more the sign for Air Serbia to start flying to Shaghai than for any Chinese carrier to start flying to BEG.

    It is obvious that second wide body will be introduced to JU fleet in next few years and they will use it to fly together with YU-ARA to JFK, YYZ and PVG. Later on maybe ORD as well depending from the flying schedule.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Anonymous13:22

      At some point they should replace ARA which is getting "oldish"

      Delete
    2. Anonymous11:02

      It is getting replaced in April.

      Delete
  31. It looks like Belgrade is turning into the new Vancouver- which had similar Chinese investments 25 years ago! Watch the number of flights skyrocket - along with property values.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Anonymous17:14

      Wow, truly one of the more bizarre comments seen here.

      Delete
    2. Anonymous22:22

      Novi Vankuver

      Delete
  32. Anonymous15:12

    What we all forget are transfer passengers that could use JU european network to reach their final destination via BEG. PEK-BEG-VIE for example or any other.
    So not only that chinese visiting Serbia could use a flight, but also transfers would work well.
    In my opinion, one additional A330 would do great with 2PW Beijing and 3PW Shanghai, while during winter 2PW Beijing, 2PW Shanghai and 1PW Sanya.
    When JU establish its routes with China maybe there will be option for additional A330 (or bigger).
    Please keep in mind "owner" or BEG who wants this even more that JU

    ReplyDelete

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