Qatar Airways to “expand and improve” Belgrade operations


Qatar Airways has said it is looking to strengthen its Belgrade operations in the coming period after forging closer ties with Air Serbia through a wide-ranging codeshare agreement, which is yet to be officially unveiled. Speaking to EX-YU Aviation News, the Qatari carrier said, “Belgrade is an important route for Qatar Airways, and the partnership with Air Serbia will definitely expand and improve our presence in the market in the near future and hopefully lead to more capacity. At this point we are still considering whether we will increase frequencies to Belgrade”. The company currently operates five weekly flights between Doha and the Serbian capital with the Airbus A320 aircraft, increasing to daily from March 26. Last week, Qatar Airways slightly shifted its arrival and departure times in Belgrade for the coming summer to enable better feed onto Air Serbia’s operations.

The codeshare agreement is significant primarily because it publicly illustrates a major shift in Air Serbia’s relations with Qatari rival Etihad Airways, which, up until 2019, codeshared on most of Air Serbia’s flights. Although the agreement between the Serbian and Qatari carrier is yet to be revealed, Qatar Airways will place its codes onto Air Serbia’s services from Belgrade to Niš, Podgorica, Tivat, Sarajevo, Banja Luka, Ljubljana, Dusseldorf, Stuttgart, Hanover, Nuremberg, Salzburg, Bologna, Venice and St Petersburg. More routes are to follow. On the other hand, Air Serbia will also be placing its codes on its counterpart’s services between Belgrade and Doha, as well as numerous points beyond the Qatari capital. The deal comes ahead of the unveiling of Air Serbia’s codeshare partner in the United States.

Qatar Airways launched its service between Doha and Belgrade in late 2012 and despite strong competition from other Gulf rivals vying mainly for transfer passengers, it saw the fastest passenger growth on the Serbian market up until the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic. Since Covid, it has benefited from Etihad Airways’ departure from Belgrade. The airline’s passenger growth in Serbia (57.082 travellers in 2017, 81.397 in 2018 and 97.815 customers in 2019) has followed the evolution of its service over the years. Qatar Airways initially launched four weekly flights from Doha to Belgrade with a stop in Ankara. However, the airline was not issued fifth freedom rights to sell tickets between the Turkish and Serbian capitals. In 2015, the Qatari carrier moved its stopover to Sofia and boosted services to daily flights. Despite applying for fifth freedom traffic rights between Sofia and Belgrade, it was again denied permission by Serbian authorities to sell tickets between the two cities. In 2016, flights were brought back to four weekly but became nonstop with the A320. Eventually, the airline increased frequencies to daily and began utilising its larger 182-seat A321 aircraft. In 2019, the carrier introduced an additional three weekly flights, for a total of ten (seven flights with A321 and three with A320), during the peak summer months. The coronavirus brought the carrier’s growth to a halt. Flights were suspended in March 2020 but resumed in July, with the A321 no longer used as the airline has only one left in its fleet with its imminent retirement expected.

Key to the airline’s growth strategy in Belgrade has been offering competitive transfer fares via Doha, as well as good cooperation with local tour operators for far-away markets. The airline has become the number one carrier with ethnic Serbian transfer passengers from Australia who visit friends and family back home. It pulled ahead of Etihad Airways in 2019 when the Emirati carrier significantly reduced its presence on the Australian market, downgraded its overall product and altered its departure times to Belgrade, eventually exiting the Serbian market in September 2020.



Comments

  1. Anonymous09:01

    I'm excited to see where this will lead.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Anonymous09:03

    It would make sense to add 3 more flights for 10. This way they would cover pretty much all of their destinations with connections to Belgrade.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Anonymous09:08

      Or simply have a similar split schedule as they have in Zagreb and you capture all the flights in DOH.

      Delete
  3. Anonymous09:03

    Good to hear. Would love them to send B787s to BEG.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Anonymous09:12

      Really hope so. They have been flying this route with A320 / A321 for over 10 years now

      Delete
  4. Anonymous09:06

    What are the new timings?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Anonymous10:11

      DOH-BEG
      07.35-12.20

      BEG-DOH
      13.20-19.15

      Delete
    2. Anonymous10:49

      So basically a perfect for for JU. It arrives the same time as CDG.

      Delete
  5. Anonymous09:10

    What a loss for EY.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Anonymous09:10

    I hope they'll start flying A330 and lower tickets prices down for passengers from Serbia to the Middle East and onwards, East Africa and Southeast Asia.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Anonymous09:13

      Agree. Qatar has become so expensive for ex yu standards, especially compared to 2019.

      Delete
    2. Anonymous09:18

      It depends which route. They are cheaper than Flydubai on Belgrade-Dubai route.

      Delete
    3. Anonymous09:28

      That is an exception because they are trying to undercut FZ on its BEG route.

      Delete
    4. Anonymous09:31

      They are probably expensive because they are full

      Delete
    5. Anonymous09:36

      This is true. Finding a free seat on QR from Belgrade is not easy anymore. I had to fly on 1.1 with them (living in Riyadh) because there was nothing available for days before, even on 31.12. Wanted to get back before New Year. And on 1.1 it was full to the last seat too!

      Delete
    6. Anonymous09:38

      Did you get a sense what was people's final destination on your flight from Belgrade.

      Delete
    7. Anonymous09:44

      I don't know exactly but it felt like every other person was going to Thailand. Maybe it was an enitre tour group so that's why.

      Delete
    8. Anonymous09:55

      Interesting. Thanks for your response.

      Delete
    9. Anonymous09:55

      During summer it's all transfers to/from Australia.

      Delete
  7. Anonymous09:12

    I could see them upgrading to the 787 or A330

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Anonymous09:46

      Interestingly they have more capacity on the A330 than on the B787.

      Delete
    2. Anonymous09:55

      Every airline has more capacity on the A330 than on the B787.

      Delete
  8. Anonymous09:14

    This probably means no QR flights to Skopje or Sarajevo in the future.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Anonymous09:15

      They will likely keep Sarajevo 3 times per week for 3 months a year like last year. As for Skopje they don't seem to be codesharing on that route... yet at least.

      Delete
    2. Anonymous09:16

      Not enough narrowbodies and they are getting quite old now.

      Delete
    3. Anonymous09:19

      Ending all of hope of Ljubljana in ny opinion too.

      Delete
    4. Anonymous09:20

      I'm not seeing SKP restored until their 737 order starts to be delivered...

      Delete
    5. Anonymous09:39

      I mean Al Baker is sometimes a dkhead. Sorry but the A320 family at the moment is way too superior compared to the 737. Go to Latin American or SE Asian airports, you will mainly see A320s flying. The A320 was the perfect aircraft for them and also suits their brand especially for 4-5 hour flights. The A320 family has a much more sophisticated product and will change once the XLR soon starts operating. QR are expected to face serious competition very soon with Saudi Arabia as it is expected to very aggressively grow worldwide within the next 10 years. We already see LCC flights from Europe to Riyadh and Jeddah and Flynas is expected to even grow further. Not to mention the Wizzair agressive expansion over there as well.
      QR will still probably be a great airline, but their leadership will slowly go down and after all, Doha is just a village with a few skyscrapers and that's it. Dubai is on the rise and soon will be Riyadh and especially Jeddah. Mark my words.

      Delete
    6. Anonymous09:42

      What does your comment have to do with anything mentioned?

      Delete
    7. Anonymous09:45

      QR will eventually resolve its issue with Airbus. Relationship is too important for both.

      Delete
  9. Anonymous09:14

    Al Baker is lying. QR have serious problems with Airbus because of the stupid A350 paint BS thus having issues with a shortage of A320s to expand in the region.
    QR ordered a bunch of 737s, but Boeing also has issues with deliveries at the moment. Don't think we will see any expansions in the region and it will be difficult to fill a 787. Even OTP is served by a 320.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Anonymous09:17

      OTP is a weak perofrmer for them and much weaker than BEG. It was until recently operated as a triangle route with Sofia. Codeshare with Air Serbia will address their presence in the region.

      Delete
    2. Anonymous09:22

      Weak performer because there is much more demand to Dubai compared to Doha both leisure and transfer.

      Delete
    3. Anonymous09:27

      Well in BEG, Flydubai is mostly used for point to point travel as few people like to use the combination of mixed product and two airlines with such a huge contrast in quality and service. Not to mention that EK is one of the most expensive airlines in the world at the moment in terms of fares.

      Delete
    4. Anonymous09:31

      The above is especially true for Serbian diaspora in Australia. We avoid EK/FZ considerably exactly because of this. I know very few people who didn't fly back to Serbia from here last year with Qatar.

      Delete
    5. Anonymous09:32

      DXB has the same number of flights to both Belgrade and Bucharest.
      BEG on the other hand has more flights to AUH.

      Delete
  10. Anonymous09:20

    Is it Moscow on the picture?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Anonymous09:24

      Yes, looks like it

      Delete
    2. Anonymous09:57

      It's interesting that QR is codesharing with JU to LED but not SVO.

      Delete
    3. Anonymous10:14

      It will probably be added.

      Delete
    4. Anonymous11:08

      They fly themselves QR metal to SVO on regular basis

      Delete
    5. Anonymous11:13

      Don't they fly to St Petersburg too?

      Delete
    6. Anonymous11:19

      No, they don't.

      Delete
  11. Anonymous09:22

    Qatar Airways has already sent widebodies to BEG on occasion and during World Cup. Would be nice if it becomes a permanent fixture.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Anonymous09:24

    Another good development is that since 1st January QR is only using their A320s with lie flat seats in business on the Belgrade route. Before that it was almost exclusively the one with the outdated recliners. Good news for premium travelers :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Anonymous09:32

      Finally! Hope it is a permanent change

      Delete
    2. Anonymous09:45

      Not necessarily. They are still sending the older A320s on certain occasions since the New Year

      Delete
    3. Anonymous10:18

      Their newest A320 is 7 years old (A7-LAH) and their oldest is 13 years old (A7-AHA). For an airline like QR those planes are already too old.

      Delete
  13. Anonymous09:25

    I don't think this CS agreement will last long once Qatar realizes the level of service Air Serbia provides. It will be the same as the LH-JU code share we had years ago.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Anonymous09:29

      LOL. Well all that is left for you is to hope hard that it turns out that way. Pray hard.

      Delete
    2. JATBEGMEL17:03

      It might be worth checking to see the full list of airlines QR codeshare with. You'll probably surprise yourself with a couple of them. They've been codesharing with Bulgaria Air for the past couple of years to just BOJ and VAR. JU is definitely not worse than FB.

      https://www.qatarairways.com/en/partners-codeshare.html

      Comparing the Jat Airways back then to Air Serbia today is quite an uneducated comparison to make. There are more factors as to why LH cancelled the codeshare agreement with JU.

      Delete
  14. Anonymous09:39

    Not gonna happen but I would love them to take Etihad's stake.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Anonymous09:43

      QR didn't do too well with acquisitions in Europe. Remember Air Italy?

      Delete
    2. Anonymous09:47

      They are doing very fine with their stake in IAG :)

      Delete
    3. Anonymous09:48

      Italian and Arab airlines just don't seem to be a good match :D

      Delete
    4. Anonymous10:16

      QR actually has ownership stakes in many airlines including LATAM and Cathay Pacific.

      Delete
  15. Anonymous09:49

    When will the official reveal of the agreement happen?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Anonymous10:12

      I think it will officially start from summer 2023 so there is still time for the announcement.

      Delete
  16. Anonymous09:49

    I think that two daily flights would work best for them because of connections but probably at one point they will switch to B787.

    ReplyDelete
  17. Anonymous09:51

    Wow they had some considerable growth on this route pre Covid.

    ReplyDelete
  18. Anonymous09:52

    They are really using the opportunity of Etihad leaving the Serbian market.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Anonymous10:51

      I think flydubai and Wizz profited much more.

      Delete
    2. Anonymous10:57

      No because they carry completely different types of passengers than Etihad/Qatar Airways.

      Delete
    3. I miss Etihad, they had so many good offers and fares from Belgrade to Asia

      Delete
  19. Anonymous09:54

    Come to think of it, there is really no one else they could have chosen to cooperate with in the region. All the other airlines are rather weak. TK is the exception of course but they are a big competitor. Aegean is the only alternative but they are Star and too tied to Lufty.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Vlad09:57

      How exactly is A3 "too tied" to LH? Genuinely curious.

      Delete
    2. Anonymous11:56

      A3 has insignificant network in our region during winter season.

      Delete
  20. Anonymous09:56

    Haha I love that Qatar Airways has a codeshare to Niš!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Anonymous09:59

      Next step, nonstop flights :p

      Delete
  21. Anonymous10:02

    I believe QR is the only foreign airline in Belgrade along with TK with its own in-house station managers and airport supervisors.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Anonymous10:07

      It is their company policy. One of the few that has not outsourced it.

      Delete
  22. Anonymous10:03

    It's impressive in general how well QR does in Belgrade since TK went triple daily and FZ double daily.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Anonymous10:04

      Upgrading to widebody is there best way to competing against Flydubai and Turkish. Offering a morre comfortable alternative and being able to take on more cargo.

      Delete
  23. Anonymous10:03

    If they have cargo I assume they could start sending Dreamliners.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Anonymous10:08

      Dreamliners are not good for cargo.

      Delete
  24. Anonymous10:08

    Hope JU joins Oneworld. I know they said they won't join an alliance but would be nice.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Anonymous10:15

      Air Serbia's only Oneworld partner is Qatar so highly doubt they are in line for joining.

      Delete
    2. Anonymous10:23

      Hopefully soon American Airlines too.

      Delete
    3. Vlad11:20

      I expect OneWorld to make a good offer to JU down the line to join the alliance. They have a big gap in coverage precisely in the area that JU covers best. It would be the most natural marriage ever.

      Delete
    4. Anonymous15:07

      Air Serbia doesn't need a marriage.

      Delete
    5. Vlad16:21

      That depends on their ambitions. If they want to stay an insignificant regional carrier, then no. If they want to scale up and become a mid-size carrier like LOT, then they do.

      Delete
    6. JATBEGMEL17:09

      Alliance membership was ruled out by Marek months ago in an interview. The codeshare agreements signed recently isn't in favour of any alliance (TK - Star, QR - One world). Alliance membership would likely mean cancelling a number of codeshare agreements in place to be in line with the alliance. This way they have the flexibility to pick and choose carriers.

      Let's also wait and see what will be of their new frequent flyer program coming up and how it will work with their codeshare partners.

      Delete
    7. Anonymous22:50

      They don't have to join OneWorld but it could still make sense to coordinate the partnerships and codeshares with AA and QR. It could put them in a good place for a potential future membership and make their frequent flier program more attractive already now. (Wishful thinking for JU to maintain BEG to JFK,ORD,MIA and AA to maintain PHL-BEG. The former would primarily feed all the Balkans/Eastern Europe on the BEG side while the latter would feed the huge AA domestic network from their main TATL hub. Between the four they could offer amazing connectivity)

      Delete
  25. Anonymous10:09

    The decision whether to send a widebody or not in such a range, mainly depends on how quickly they sell upper/later sales tiers as well as how well they do fill busienss clas. If the business class demand is low, and if after 75% cheapest tickets are sold, people simply stop buying more expensive options,, they would rather dispatch two narrowbody planes, because they consume less per seat (I tried both A320 and A350 exactly on QR so I do have to compare) - frankly a widebody economy seat is almost a business class in narrowbody regarding seat pitch, food and even entertainment, whils t a business class seat is a lieflat instead of recliner (at best). This means they will need to hike prices a bit if they replace current A320 (in which i felt really tight and nervous) with a roomy, comfy widebody with a choice of meals and drinks, blankets etc. And the price shall be hiked across all price tiers on both busienss and economy.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Anonymous10:13

      Thanks for the explanation. Good insight.

      Delete
    2. Anonymous10:24

      "frankly a widebody economy seat is almost a business class in narrowbody regarding seat pitch, food and even entertainment, whils t a business class seat is a lieflat instead of recliner (at best)."
      Then why are TAP and Air Transat or JetBlue happily deploying their A321s on Transatlantic flights following your genius logic? I suggest you simply search for online videos of the A321LR, momko.

      Delete
    3. Vlad11:23

      I've flown LIS-EWR on TAP's A321LR in a "throne" J seat and the experience was FAR better than any flight I've ever had on LH long-haul J for instance. I would happily fly narrow-body J as long as there's a lie-flat seat involved, especially if the price is competitive (which it tends to be on airlines that deploy A321s on TATL routes).

      Delete
    4. Anonymous12:06

      Of course Vladimir. Only old-fashioned people have a more conservative look on the narrow-bodies because they think they are 200 seater LCC airlines, which is obviously not the case. A321LR is a real game changer and cant wait to see the XLR! I am a 757 fan, but the XLR also deserves lots of well deserved attention.

      Delete
    5. And A321XLR could have become gamechanger and rescuer for OU too, if they decided to convert A320 neo order to A321XLR. Unfortunatelly, they would go for A220 instead, and continue feeding Cartel for peanuts with the most expensive aircraft on the market today, and make overall bigger losses than they currently do

      Delete
    6. Anonymous15:50

      Ah yes of course... how can a day pass without reading about cartel and peanuts

      Delete
    7. Anyone forcing you to read my posts? Don't like it, don't read it. I comment on aviation. That's what this blog is for. You comment on me. That's what this blog is not for. But if sad truth about corrupt lossmaking failed feeder OU hurts you that much, I fully understand. Have a nice evening!

      Delete
    8. Anonymous17:37

      My dear, it's an article about QR and JU. You still find a way to bring Croatia into it. Quite sad

      Delete
    9. Hahahaha, "my dear". Will refrain from commenting further.

      Delete
  26. Anonymous10:17

    Will be interesting to see how this plays out. QR has a tendency to take a smaller airlines "under its wings" so to say. It did that with Oman Air for example and it always starts with codeahares.

    ReplyDelete
  27. Anonymous10:54

    Emirates announced that from March they are going to fly daily with A380 to HKG. China is opening up as more and more carriers add flights. With JU unable to respond, SU out of the game and Hainan sticking with their one flight DOH and DXB stand to capture most of this future growth to Serbia.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Anonymous11:36

      It's too early for any predictions, the market won't recover in couple of days anyway. Also the epidemiological situation in China after opening doesn't look promising...

      Delete
  28. ADRIA BRANDNEW13:59

    Guys everyone is talking about Etihad who flown to BEG, but did they use their B787 or something else?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Anonymous14:13

      At that time they were only just taking delivery of these planes. Their passenger numbers and average annual load factor of over 90% (yes for the whole year on daily flights both ways) had been published here.

      Delete
    2. Was (or for sure almost) only A320 AUH-BEG

      Delete
    3. Vlad16:23

      I had an A319 once on AUH-BEG back in 2015.

      Delete
    4. JATBEGMEL17:13

      EY was using their last 2 A319's practically on 2 European routes - MSQ and BEG. EY also had JU operating the second daily. The moment JU cancelled AUH, EY stepped in with double daily flights, operating the same JU departure time from AUH to BEG, but within 1 hour of each other 2 flights would depart BEG for AUH. This was around the time EY upgraded BEG to the A320.

      Delete
  29. Anonymous15:05

    Snoozefest. QR widebody service however is very nice. Wake me up when QR starts scheduled widebody service to Belgrade.

    ReplyDelete
  30. Anonymous15:26

    QR has a problem with narrow body fleet; their fight with Airbus will cost them dearly; A321XLR would be a perfect jet for them but instead they are gettin MAX10 which is bound to be deleyed again, simmilar to 777X

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. JATBEGMEL17:26

      I have a feeling JU will be launching DOH to offer the second daily service. This would then allow full connections on both ends. QR have had their partners launch flights to DOH to help boost connectivity due to fleet constraints.

      The QR flight arriving connects onto the JU midday regional wave while departing with the JU European arrivals. JU with a 17:30 departure is in time for a tonne of Asia/Australia/Africa/South America connections in DOH while taking on regional connections in BEG. The inbound flight would then take on the same inbound QR pax while the arrival into BEG allows for Western European connections + JFK and ORD.

      Delete
    2. Redneck18:07

      Why would JU fly to DOH? That would be a horrible decision. QR alone is unable to sustain double daily A320 to BEG in the high season.

      JU discontinued AUH as it takes one aircraft unavailable for most of the day, where that same aircraft could be making several return trips within the region/EU. On top of that, JU doesn't have business class seats/service to match QR customer expectation and it doesn't have NEO generation needed to lower the cost of a such a long service.

      Darn tootin' it's a horrible decision!

      Delete
    3. JATBEGMEL19:43

      @Redneck

      Fleet constraints at QR. Prior to the pandemic, QR was flying 10 pw to BEG and that was without the JU codeshare. QR may not be able to increase capacity in BEG because of it, which doesn't benefit QR or JU. That's also the reason why AA started flying to DOH, which also doesn't have the level of service to match QR.

      Midnight wave always had aircraft on ground in BEG even on the best day. 17:30 departure would have them miss out 1 European destination in the evening and not several, but gains a rotation during the middle of the night. DOH is also closer by at least 1 hour total trip time, unlike AUH, which means DOH fits better into the JU waves. But let's see how the codeshare unfolds and how close JU gets with QR.

      Delete
    4. Redneck20:02

      Aware of QR fleet problems but those are their own problems. QR should smarten up and make peace with Airbus. Failing that, there is a whole world of aircraft available to QR for lease. Not Air Serbia's problem to solve.

      Delete
    5. Anonymous21:46

      QR can call DanAir too.

      Delete
  31. @JATBEGMEL
    You are one of the very few people here who know about aviation, and who expresses the knowledge in moderate, understandable and efficient manner. Always enjoying reading your posts 😃

    ReplyDelete

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