Serbia holds talks with IndiGo founder over potential flights


The Serbian Minister for Foreign Affairs, Nikola Selaković, has held talks with Rahul Bhatia, the founder of India’s largest airline IndiGo, over the potential introduction of flights to Belgrade. It comes after the number of Indian arrivals into Serbia increased 168% on the pre-pandemic 2019. Mr Selaković noted that the launch of nonstop operations from Indian cities to the Serbian capital would further improve business and tourism ties. The Foreign Minister said Air Serbia is interested in cooperating with IndiGo, particularly regarding flights to third countries. IndiGo has a wide-ranging codeshare agreement in place with Turkish Airlines, which sees the low cost carrier maintain services to Istanbul, from which passengers are transferred onto Turkish’s European network of flights. 

IndiGo had previously expressed interest in serving Belgrade, with talks taking place with the Serbian government and Tourism Board in 2018. This summer, the airline, which boasts a fleet of over 270 aircraft, operated a series of charter flights from New Delhi and Bangalore to Belgrade, catering for Indian nationals requiring to undergo quarantine in a so called “safe” country before proceeding to their final destination, primarily in the Middle East, United States, Canada and Hong Kong, due to travel bans and restrictions imposed on citizens and residents of India at the time. "Serbia is aggressively looking at tapping into the Indian outbound market. Abolishing visas for Indians travelling to Serbia has proved quite helpful and is becoming a unique selling point for Serbia as a destination. The next few years are very important in terms of marketing and promoting Serbia effectively in India. From India, Serbia is targeting young professionals and backpackers who like to explore countries and are open to new experiences", the Serbian Embassy in India said.

Indirect traffic between India and Serbia has increased significantly over the past few years. In the pre-pandemic 2019, 17.775 passengers travelled between the two countries on a single itinerary, making it the sixth busiest long haul market from Belgrade Nikola Tesla Airport. New Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru and Hyderabad were the largest sources of traffic between the two nations, with Delhi and Mumbai themselves accounting for 67% of all passengers between the two countries. Qatar Airways was the most popular transfer airline, handling 30% of the traffic. It was followed by Etihad Airways and Aeroflot, each with 23% of the market, then Flydubai with 8% and Turkish Airlines with a 4% share. During the first three quarters of 2021, Indian tourists accounted for the third largest number of overnight stays in Serbia following those from Bosnia and Herzegovina and Turkey. The number of Indian nationals entering Serbia between January and October stood at 20.849. up 168% on the same period in 2019 and 119% on the whole of 2019.

Serbia and India revised their Air Service Agreement in March 2017. Under the deal, Indian carriers can operate flights from any city in the country to any point in Serbia, while Serbian carriers can fly from any city in Serbia to four metropolitan cities in India, including New Delhi, Mumbai and two other points which would be specified at a later date. The last time Belgrade was linked with scheduled flights to India was just prior to the collapse of the former Yugoslavia when JAT Yugoslav Airlines maintained services to Calcutta. In the late 1980s it was to introduce services to Mumbai as well and opened its representative office in the city. However, negotiations with the relevant authorities stalled after the Indian government said ticket sales would be subject to a royalty tax, making it unfeasible for JAT to introduce the flights. The route was primarily aimed to cater for Indians travelling to the United States.



Comments

  1. Anonymous09:03

    Interesting. Air Serbia and Indigo could start off with a codeshare from Istanbul first.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Anonymous09:12

      +1

      Delete
    2. Nemjee09:50

      Even though that would make sense I hope it doesn't happen. That flight is extremely uncomfortable as it requires you to spend close to 7 hours in a densely configured A321neo. It's worth mentioning that there were cases when winds were unfavorable so the plane had to make a stop in Doha (same as when they operated this route with the A320neo).

      In this case IST is not the suitable connecting airport for India. Another reason is that TK is severely restricted in India due to Ankara's political support for Pakistan.

      If JU is serious about India (which I don't think they are), there are a few things they can do:

      1. set up their own flights to India and then sign a code-share agreement with IndiGo. This would actually make the most sense. BEG-DEL is around 7 hours so there is more than enough time for the A330 to go and come back between two JFK rotations. Not to mention that with the A330 they could carry quite a lot of cargo.
      We've witnessed in recent months that IndiGo has actively pursued international partners with which it could work. First it was American Airlines and then more recently AF-KL. They have obviously recognized the importance of the international long-haul market which, at this moment, is off limits to them.

      2. get cozy with QR especially once Australia opens up. Since Etihad is out of the picture they could sign a wide-ranging code-share agreement with QR. Through such a deal they could finally get access to a serious Asian network and finally offer competitive one stop connections to Australia and New Zealand.

      Since 2016, Indian exports to Serbia have continuously increased and they went from $41 million in 2016 to around $90 million in 2020. Serbian exports to India have grown from $8 million in 2019 to over $18 million in 2020.

      Top Serbian exports to India based on their value (2020):

      1. Organic chemicals ($7.36 million)
      2. Machinery, nuclear reactors, boilers ($6.91 million)
      3. Electronic equipment ($1.15 million)

      Even though these numbers are relatively modest, they have been recording continuous, stable growth over the years. This, coupled with a positive political climate on both sides, means that air travel demand between Serbia and India will only keep on growing.
      Another thing which is interesting is that India is slowly starting to experience a qualified workforce shortage. This has forced many local companies to improve work conditions and offer better salaries. In coming years as the country's birth rate keeps on slowing down, it's economic performance will keep on improving. In other words, India will slowly transform itself into a major source of passengers for airlines. There is a reason why carriers such as Emirates have aggressively pursued this market and why they fought hard to keep their dominant position over there when it comes to international travel.
      LOT is another airline which recently launched DEL and since day 1 they have performed extremely well over there. Flights were upgraded to B789 very fast and they didn't wait long to restore WAW-DEL which were temporarily suspended due to covid. From what I can see, they operate two weekly flights this winter.

      Like I wrote above, I don't think JU will do much when it comes to India. I suppose they will sign an expensive code-share agreement with IndiGo via IST and that will be the end of it. Good thing is that others such as Qatar, Aeroflot... will keep on profiting from this market growth like they did in the past.

      At the end of the day, what matters the most is that the Serbian market is not held hostage by JU. If they are not willing to be creative and carve out new business opportunities then at least they are not blocking others from doing so.

      Delete
    3. Anonymous16:18

      At least not in this market.

      Delete
    4. I actually flew on an Indigo A321 NEO a couple months ago and the legroom was really good. I expected nothing but was pleasantly surprised.
      Not sure if it's due to super slim seats, but the legroom felt like no less than 32''. Now, my flight was only ~40 min long and I'm sure those seats would get very uncomfortable on such a long flight.

      Delete
    5. Anonymous08:07

      Seat pitch on their A321neo is 30'
      Now that's tight on a long flight, it's one less than JU's A319 and 2 less than the A330

      Delete
    6. Sure felt way roomier then JU's narrowbodies.

      Delete
  2. Anonymous09:06

    This will be bad news for QR and FZ, who both have transfer flights from and to India.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Anonymous09:08

      According to the text, in 2019 FZ had just 8% of transfers from India.

      Delete
    2. Anonymous22:30

      The EK-FZ transfer combo is not very appealing for many. Similar to FZ-FZ transfer where people have to usually go from the awful terminal 2 in Dubai where most FZ flights are handled to the Emirates terminal 3 where where the Belgrade flights depart and arrive. And those two terminals are on opposite sides of the runway.

      Delete
    3. Agree. Flew once FZ EK combo from ZAG . Never again, despite the transfer was within the same terminal . Few months later opted for VCE departure on EK EK instead ZAG on FZ EK. Not saying everyone should share my opinion and practice, but really have no clue how EK decided to codeshare on FZ at all, because difference in their product is like Heaven and Earth

      Delete
  3. Anonymous09:07

    Cool

    ReplyDelete
  4. Anonymous09:09

    The fact that they managed to renegotiate the bilateral air agreement is quite an achievement knowing how difficult this is to do with India, all the rules and quotas in air traffic they have. So congratulations. Hopefully there will be some flights in the future.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Anonymous09:18

      True India is very prickly with bureaucracy.

      Delete
    2. Anonymous12:42

      In 2016 BH from Bulgaria had plans to start Kolkata and Chandigarh and they were denied and gently told where can fly... They even took the case to the supreme court in India... this is despite their close relations with SpiceJet.

      Delete
    3. JATBEGMEL14:41

      Indian bureaucracy is unnecessarily complicated. It gives you the impression that the government has put emphasis on making things as difficult as possible.

      Delete
  5. Anonymous09:10

    Good luck. Hope it happens

    ReplyDelete
  6. Anonymous09:13

    Does any tour operator sell packages from Serbia to India?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Anonymous09:17

      I went with Kon Tiki in January 2019. It was a great tour. We visited many cities and it was not overly expensive. Plus we had a great tour guide.

      Delete
    2. Anonymous09:26

      Out of curiosity, who did you fly with and was it a group of people?

      Delete
    3. Anonymous09:31

      Qatar Airways, there were around 15 of us. Some were Serbs not actually living in Serbia. There was a Serbian family from France and one guy from Switzerland. It was apparently cheaper for them to travel from Belgrade.

      Delete
    4. Anonymous10:55

      Interesting. Thanks

      Delete
  7. Anonymous09:58

    Serbian government has been very focused on securing India flights for the past 5 years, which is a wise move. With many Indian nationals doing longer stopovers to Serbia in order to be able to travel to the US/EU, seems like a perfect shot at making this happen (maybe even already in 2022).

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Anonymous10:55

      It is impressive that Serbia is trying to establish flights to all corners of the globe and increase tourism. Not sure this will work out but I wouldn't dismiss it. Crazier things have happened.

      Delete
    2. Anonymous13:20

      What other corners of the world are you talking about since Europe is already covered fairly well?

      Delete
    3. Anonymous14:33

      Well one corner is JFK which was covered in 2016. They are now working on China flights as well which will no doubt happen once covid passes.

      Delete
  8. Anonymous10:54

    Interesting but I doubt it will materialize. Air Serbia probably won't accept any partnership.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Anonymous10:57

    Air Serbia really has to do something with its A330 during the winter. I'm not saying they should fly to India but it is a good option since the rotation is shorter. Off course only if they can make some deal like with Indigo.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Anonymous10:58

    Seems like the charters they did this summer did attract their interest.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Anonymous10:59

    LOL @ there being more people arriving from India this year than two years ago. This must be a unique example in the world.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Anonymous11:07

    Interesting that in September there were 2.213 Indian tourists in Belgrade (20.849 in 2021 so far). I don't think they need to come to Serbia anymore for quarantine so are these legit tourists?

    Also here are some other numbers for September arrivals.

    1. Russians: 7.092 (50.684 so far) +422.1% growth in September
    2. Turks: 6.035 (41.346) +234.9%

    September arrivals: 89.314 (+104.8%)
    January-September: 719.495 (+80.9%)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Anonymous12:44

      And compare the number of Indian arrivals to 2016 when for the whole year there were 1.248 of them :)

      Delete
    2. Anonymous12:46

      A lot of Indians are still coming but don't know if it is for quarantine or not. I flew with FlyDubai a few nights ago to Belgrade. Around 30% of the passengers were Indian. On Thursday I was walking down Knez Mihailova and saw 5 different Indian families.

      Delete
    3. Anonymous12:47

      Remember that Indians still cannot enter many countries for non essential purposes. So people go where they can. Serbia does not require visas, it is affordable, it does not have any draconian covid measures, and Indian tour operators now have packages to Serbia.

      Delete
    4. Anonymous13:12

      Good, this is a huge market and I hope Serbia promote itself in India even more. Actually Indians are big spenders unlike Germans or Dutch. They are definitely a group worth attracting.

      Delete
  13. Anonymous12:39

    Would be really interesting if this materialised. Can money be made on this route?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Anonymous22:28

      I'm sure they flew the charters this summer because it made money for them.

      Delete
  14. Anonymous12:40

    It is a serious company

    InterGlobe Enterprises Limited, through its subsidiaries, provides aviation and travel related services. It also operates an airline and hotels. In addition, the company provides business process outsourcing and IT services to travel, transportation, and hospitality industries. Further, it offers travel technology solutions. Furthermore, the company provides airline management services, such as duty-free operations, ground handling, and cabin crew management, as well as provides various products ranging from executive jets to luxury yachts, and sports cars to mini submarines. InterGlobe Enterprises Limited was founded in 1989 and is headquartered in Gurgaon, India with additional offices internationally.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Anonymous12:48

      Only a large company such as this one can make these flights work.

      Delete
  15. Anonymous12:43

    This is great news for Belgrade Airport and Serbia.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Anonymous12:48

      Yeah but it probably won't happen

      Delete
    2. Anonymous16:06

      If they were to start, it would mean that that only BEG next to IST (in our wider region) would have non-stop flights to India. :O

      Delete
    3. Anonymous22:27

      True. There used to be flights from Vienna but not anymore.

      Delete
  16. Anonymous12:56

    Over 20,000 visitors from India of all places in first three quarters is impressive considering the situation. Probably the highest number in this part of Europe.

    ReplyDelete
  17. Anonymous13:44

    I think there is a reason Air Serbia just doesnt start flights on their own. This route isnt profitable and needs subsidies.
    As concluded in the previous posts ASL cannot survive without subsidies.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Anonymous13:45

      Do you just copy and paste the same comment in every article related to Serbia?

      Delete
    2. Anonymous16:19

      Anon 13:44 No one concluded that. Wishful thinking.

      Once pandemic is over and tourists come back in full numbers there will be demand from China as well as India.

      Delete
  18. Anonymous16:04

    I would prefer if they focused a bit more on negotiating flights to Canada rather than India.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Anonymous17:55

      These things usually take years to develop into new flights, so instead of waiting for one to be start they can work on multiple destinations at the same time.

      Delete
  19. Anonymous16:06

    Does IndiGo even have the equipment to make it nonstop to BEG?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Anonymous17:07

      Shouldn't be a problem for A320neo, but they've also got a ton of A321 LR and XLRs on order too.

      Delete
    2. Anonymous22:27

      I think they flew nonstop from New Delhi to Belgrade during the summer with the A320neo.

      Delete
  20. Good news. Air Serbia can now send that A330 to India twice a week instead of having it sit idle in BEG. But long term, with flights to China, Toronto, and Chicago's looking, a second A330 is a necessity.

    ReplyDelete
  21. Indian national here.

    I have traveled to Serbia 4 times already and for below reasons

    1. Sheer curiosity of what the Ex Yugoslavia feels like (Tourism visited many spots including Tara)

    2. Transit travel on the way to UK for business trip

    I would highly appreciate a direct connection for below reasons

    1. Much better transit port than arabic countries which are expensive
    2. Excellent food (Favorite being Leskvacki cevapi and of course plieskavicas) & higher% of friendly knowledgeable people
    3. Good option for first time travelers to experience Europe without visa procedures

    I wish a direct non stop service starts it would be great for both countries. My Serbian friend visited India too two hrs ago, but lot of flight hopping. The arabs make the money.

    Why not JU and 6E??

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

EX-YU Aviation News does not tolerate insults, excessive swearing, racist, homophobic or any other chauvinist remarks or provocative posts with the intention of creating further arguments. A full list of comment guidelines can be found here. Thank you for your cooperation.