Nonstop China - Serbia flights resume after 22 years


Hainan Airlines has launched operations between Beijing and Belgrade today, marking the resumption of scheduled nonstop flights between the two cities after 22 years. The carrier’s 292-seat Airbus A330-300 aircraft, featuring 32 seats in business class and the remaining 260 in economy, landed at Nikola Tesla Airport at 08.20 this morning. Due to strict Covid-19 restrictions in China, as well as a caps on passenger numbers, flights are currently limited to one per week, but will increase to two weekly from September or October. The aircraft was greeted in the Serbian capital by a water cannon salute, as well as the country’s President, Aleksandar Vučić, the Chinese Ambassador to Serbia, Chen Bo, the CEO of Air Serbia, Jiri Marek, the General Manager of Belgrade Airport, Francois Berisot, and government ministers.



Commenting on the service launch, Ms Chen said, "It was an honour to fly on the first nonstop service from Beijing to Belgrade. These flights will further consolidate Belgrade's position as a regional hub. I would particularly like to thank Air Serbia on its assistance for the launch of these services and I look forward to seeing them in China too". 


The return service is scheduled to depart at 15.00 this afternoon. Due to Covid-19 restrictions, the point of entry to China will be Dalian, after which passengers will continue to Beijing. "Belgrade is one of the first international destinations to be restored by Hainan Airlines due to significant demand. The route will build a bridge to facilitate people to people exchange and promote business between Chinese and Serbian enterprises, which can now seek even more opportunities under the Belt and Road cooperation framework. The flights are scheduled so as to connect onto more than forty domestic destinations in cooperation with Hainan Group airlines", the company's Vice Chairman, Cheng Ming, said upon the route's launch in Beijing. Today’s service marks Hainan Airlines’ return to Serbia after four years. The carrier commenced operations from Beijing to Belgrade via Prague in September 2017, with the airline holding fifth freedom rights on the Prague - Belgrade - Prague sectors, allowing it to also sell tickets between the two European cities. However, flights were discontinued in late 2018. Hainan Airlines' second attempt at serving Belgrade comes months before Air Serbia inaugurates its own operations to China, which have been announced for this October.


International capacity from mainland China is currently down 95% on 2019 levels but the country’s civil aviation administration is making moves to revive more overseas flights. Analysis of OAG data shows that there are currently 42 airport pairs receiving nonstop flights between mainland China and Europe. Total two-way weekly seat capacity stands at 19.126. This compares with 142 airport pairs and 447.761 weekly seats during the same period in 2019. 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. Most of the traffic flow between China and Serbia over the past few years has originated from Shanghai, followed by Beijing, Guangzhou, Hangzhou and Chengdu.

Flight HU7969 prior to departure at Beijing Airport

Flights between Beijing and Belgrade were first introduced in August 1972 by Air China’s predecessor CAAC with the routing Beijing - Karachi - Belgrade - Bucharest, utilising the Ilyushin Il-62 aircraft. Over the years, the stop shifted from the Pakistani city to the likes of Urumchi and Tehran. Furthermore, the final point on the route changed from Bucharest to Paris Orly, and later to Zurich. In 1978, the equipment was upgraded to the Boeing 707 and in 1989 to the Boeing 767.


On the other hand, JAT Yugoslav Airlines operated its first service to Beijing via Karachi in December 1971 under the Air Yugoslavia charter brand with its Boeing 707, while scheduled services were introduced on April 30, 1979, as flight JU610. The airline later modified the routing to the Chinese capital via Calcutta and began using its DC10 aircraft. Following the disintegration of Yugoslavia, JAT Yugoslav Airlines restored operations to Beijing on December 18, 1997. The route would be maintained until October 2000 with a disruption during the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia in 1999. In September 2000, JAT finalised an agreement with Air China, enabling passengers to and from Australia to transfer via Beijing with a three-hour stop in the Chinese capital.







Comments

  1. Anonymous09:05

    What a fantastic development, especially during Covid!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Anonymous09:07

    Love the photo with the full air bridge of passengers 😀

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    Replies
    1. Anonymous09:13

      +1

      Delete
    2. Anonymous09:21

      +1

      Delete
    3. Anonymous12:07

      You can see a lot of them taking photos of the ceremony in front of the plane :D

      Delete
    4. Anonymous13:17

      Air bridge? It's called jetway.

      Delete
    5. Anonymous13:18

      It's called both. No need to act smart.

      Delete
    6. Anonymous14:31

      It's called finger among ex-JAT professionals.

      Delete
    7. Anonymous18:37

      Yes, it is called air bridge too, wrongly though.

      Delete
  3. Anonymous09:08

    Congratulations!

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  4. Anonymous09:12

    Good luck. Hope these flights work.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Anonymous09:12

    Excellent to see frequencies will increase soon.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Nemjee09:20

    Ms Chen Bo is a fantastic ambassador and she has done so much to promote ties between Serbia and China. That said, she has a lot of experience when it comes to our region. She worked in the Belgrade embassy back in 1999 when it was bombed and before returning to Serbia she was working in the Sarajevo embassy.

    Let's not forget all the positive PR she secured for China during COVID with all the aid that was flowing in at a time when the EU introduced a ban on medical equipment exports to Serbia.

    Once covid measures are relaxed in China, I expect demand to absolutely boom. Seems like Hainan will focus on their own connections in PEK while JU will focus on their own in BEG. Like that Serbia and China will profit the most as two carriers, in stead of competing, will be activating their own networks, each at its own end.

    BEG-PEK development will be very interesting to follow.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Anonymous09:47

      +1

      Delete
    2. Anonymous14:47

      +1

      Delete
    3. Anonymous17:03

      JU should focus on Shanghai !

      Delete
    4. Nemjee18:24

      If these favorable conditions remain, JU should focus on all of China. There is a growing O&D demand which will make these flights more successful, faster.

      Delete
  7. Anonymous09:22

    Anyone know the load?

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    Replies
    1. Anonymous09:28

      Looks rather busy

      Delete
    2. Anonymous10:55

      131, source RTS

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    3. Anonymous10:57

      Considering there is a limit on the number of people that can be inside of the cabin in China due to Covid that's great.

      Delete
  8. Nemjee09:22

    Just to add, I hope someone take a picture of JU and HU A330s at BEG today.

    C3 JFK
    C7 PEK

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Anonymous15:22

      Ill make your day, i got the pic! Its not perfect, ARB is a bit hidden since i was all the way at C9, but i got it!
      You might just have to wait a bit to see it though, until i can write a trip report ;)

      Delete
    2. Nemjee18:24

      Brilliant! Thank you very much. Looking forward to reading your trip report.

      Delete
  9. Anonymous09:25

    Always good coverage. Thank you

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    Replies
    1. Anonymous09:28

      And the history trivia too

      Delete
  10. WELCOME!!!! 🤩

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  11. Anonymous09:35

    Wonder of these flights will impact other airlines that rely on Chinese transfers to/from BEG.

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    Replies
    1. Anonymous09:37

      Mahan Air first and foremost.

      Delete
    2. Nemjee09:39

      Highly doubt it given how difficult it is to currently operate into China. In the past I believe SU was the main player on the market so they stand to lose the most unless the market expands so much that there is also room for them.

      Since it seems like JU and HU won't have a cozy relationship, and I expect any potential codeshare to be extremely expensive (JU style), SU can profit from offering more flexibility, especially if they restore 21 weekly to BEG.

      Delete
    3. Anonymous10:07

      "Since it seems like JU and HU won't have a cozy relationship"

      Why do you think they won't have a cozy relationship? Air Serbia's CEO welcoming the plane in Belgrade and Chinese Ambassador thanking Air Serbia for the launch of these flights indicated to me they will very much have a cozy relationship.

      Delete
    4. Anonymous10:16

      @10:07 exactly

      Delete
    5. Nemjee10:22

      Look at the HU times, they don't fit at all at JU's network so efficient and competitive connections won't be happening (HU onto JU). I expect a similar move by JU.

      I am not saying they are going to go one against the other but seems like both airlines will be focusing on their own market in stead of creating a JU-HU synergy.

      That is why I wrote above that it is a good thing. Like that connections at both hubs will be optimized and passengers will profit the most. It's not an arranged marriage arranged by Chinese and Serbian politicians.

      Personally, I wouldn't pay too much attention to what politicians and diplomats are saying. I'd rather focus on what JU and HU are doing.

      All in all, this is a good move by both carriers.

      Delete
  12. Anonymous09:37

    Looks like JU and HU will be working together based on what the ambassador said.

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    Replies
    1. Anonymous11:51

      It sounds like that but it doesn't look like that: HU's arrival and departure miss JU's morning and afternoon waves by 2 hours

      Delete
  13. Anonymous09:44

    Great news, another destination from Belgrade!
    What is the JU codeshare flight number on this flight, anyone knows? Given that the CEO of Air Serbia welcomed the flight, I'd assume that it's already in place. Bravo Air Serbia!

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    Replies
    1. Anonymous09:46

      I don't think they have a codeshare yet but it should happen soon.

      Delete
    2. Anonymous10:00

      Can't wait for their €1500 codeshare flights to come on sale. Remember their codeshare with CA via VIE? Lolz

      Delete
    3. Anonymous10:04

      Well, then it's quite strange for the CEO of a competing airline to welcome this flight?!

      Delete
    4. Anonymous10:04

      Commenting on the service launch, Ms Chen said, "It was an honour to fly on the first nonstop service from Beijing to Belgrade. These flights will further consolidate Belgrade's position as a regional hub. I would particularly like to thank Air Serbia on its assistance for the launch of these services and I look forward to seeing them in China too".

      Delete
    5. Anonymous10:07

      The ambassador was being nice and polite. Air Serbia has no way to facilitate or block a Chinese airline that wants to fly to BEG. China is a strategic partner for Serbia and as such if it wants to fly it will fly. I think this is just PR to show that they are going to be working together.

      Delete
    6. Anonymous10:10

      But why on earth do you think they wouldn't work together?

      Delete
    7. Anonymous10:17

      Hopefully the direct flight on JU won’t be too expensive

      Delete
  14. Anonymous10:17

    Wow BEG, congrats! Pozdrav iz Slo.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Anonymous11:17

    The only country doing something with aviation in ex-Yu.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Anonymous12:02

    Love it!

    ReplyDelete
  17. Anonymous12:02

    These flights came out of nowhere! No one really expected them, at least not now. But I'm really happy. Great news for BEG.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Anonymous12:04

      Agree. Politicians talked for months when Hainan was starting PEK-PRG-BEG and now they didn't even mention these flights until today. But that's good :)

      Delete
  18. Good work. I've been saying all along things will move quickly once COVID eases. Beijing, Shanghai and Chicago are just the beginning. Expect Toronto and Delhi some time next year. And complete restoration of services to the middle east.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Anonymous16:31

      Woah woah woah, slow down buddy! Let’s be happy with New York, Chicago, Beijing, and maybe Shanghai, if Air Serbia launches it instead of Beijing, which is the logical choice. It would be ideal if a Canadian carrier (Air Canada or most likely Air Transat) started BEG flights next year, or 2024, if not then we’ll have to wait a couple more years for JU, I mean they are just getting their second widebody, and it did take 6 years, so hold your horses. As for Delhi, the A320 can technically reach it without issues, though it isn’t the best choice, so if an Indian carrier decides to launch those flights so be it. And Lastly the middle east. They could deploy some A319s and A320s to North Africa, the UAE, Qatar, etc. and then to send the A330 on charters to Doha for the FIFA World Cup? Still, we have to be patient, and you are looking a tad too ambitious.

      Delete
    2. Nemjee18:28

      I don't think the A320 can make it all the way to DEL as the flight would be close to 7 hours. I remember when Indigo launched IST, on the way there they had to introduce a stop in DOH for refueling. I think it had to do with winds.

      They'd need either the A321XLR or to actually do it with the A332. There is a visa free regime with India but I fear that if they start promoting Serbia in India, many might abuse this system and use it to reach the EU and request asylum. For now attracting Indian expats from the Gulf region should be the government's priority. I think it's these Indians who mostly visit Serbia.

      Delete
    3. Anonymous21:30

      I didn’t take winds and all that into consideration. There is lots of Indian tourists, and yea the EU is a problem.

      Delete
  19. Anonymous15:41

    Air traffic still being down 95% in China compared to pre-Covid is crazy. Hope they start opening up soon.

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    Replies
    1. Anonymous15:51

      Well China is just exiting a massive lockdown so it's not a big surprise.

      Delete
  20. Anonymous15:52

    Nice photos. Love the retro images too!

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  21. Anonymous16:16

    Would it be possible for Tokyo flights to be added with the 3rd A330?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Anonymous16:23

      Technically yes, but there doesn’t seem to be much interest.

      Delete
  22. Anonymous16:44

    How many times per week did JAT fly with DC 10 in the 2000's to Beijing ?

    ReplyDelete
  23. Anonymous17:48

    Only bad thing with this is 10 day mandatory quarantine in Dalian Hopefully that will not be for too long.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Anonymous13:26

      Quarantine liekly to last for another 99 years.

      Delete
  24. Anonymous23:47

    Mr Editor, thank you for historical overview of the route and old flight adverts. Loved it!

    ReplyDelete

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