Flydubai leads Gulf carrier battle in Belgrade

Flydubai is Belgrade’s busiest carrier from the Gulf region, outperforming both Qatar Airways and Wizz Air Abu Dhabi. The Dubai-based airline, which boasts the most flights and capacity out of the three with double daily rotations throughout the year, handled 148.191 passengers on its Belgrade service last year and is set to replicate that success in 2023 as well. Whereas Dubai had the least passengers of the three Gulf destinations served from Belgrade prior to the coronavirus pandemic, it has now become the busiest. This is in part due to Flydubai’s swift return to the Serbian market following the lockdowns in 2020 and Dubai’s prominence as a global travel hub in the aftermath of the global health emergency. The Serbian Prime Minister, Ana Brnabić, held talks with the Founder and CEO of Emirates, Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, in Dubai both last year and this February, with attempts being made to bring the Emirati carrier to Belgrade. Emirates previously studied options of introducing flights to the Serbian capital.

Qatar Airways fully restored its pre-pandemic frequencies in Belgrade only this summer, although its capacity continues to lag. In 2019, the airline maintained daily operations with its Airbus A321 aircraft, which has since been retired from its fleet. It now runs its Belgrade flights with the A320 instead. Boasting fewer frequencies and less capacity, the Qatari carrier handled 64.687 passengers on its Belgrade service last year, down 33.9% on 2019. However, with high loads and a good performance throughout 2023, the carrier is set to exceed its pre-pandemic operations from December 23, when it introduces an additional three weekly flights on its Belgrade service for a total of ten. The airline has recently said its short-term goal is to serve all cities in Eastern and Central Europe double daily.

Gulf carrier Belgrade passenger performance in 2022

Wizz Air Abu Dhabi commenced operations to Belgrade in 2021, filling some of the void left by the departure of Etihad Airways, which, until it discontinued flights in 2020, was the busiest of the Gulf carriers in Belgrade. In 2022, Wizz Air Abu Dhabi handled 55.084 travellers on the Belgrade route, which is notably down on the 114.256 passengers welcomed by Etihad in 2019. However, Wizz Air Abu Dhabi has found success, doubling its frequencies on the route this winter from two to four weekly. For its part, Etihad noted, “Serbia is not currently part of our operating network, but it remains an important market for Etihad Airways. We continually review the forward development of the network, and as part of this process will be regularly evaluating the potential to reinstate a connection between Abu Dhabi and Belgrade”.

Gulf carriers continue to face increased pressure from the cooperation between Air Serbia and Turkish Airlines, which offer over thirty weekly flights between Belgrade and Istanbul and numerous onward connections at all times of the day. This is particularly true for Qatar Airways, which has the most transfer passengers of the three Gulf carriers serving Belgrade. During 2023, Kuwait’s Jazeera Airways became a new Gulf entrant on the Serbian market, however, its seasonal flights were cut short and primarily marketed towards Russian transfer passengers. It is unclear if the airline will restore its service between Kuwait City and Belgrade next year, with the carrier yet to finalise its 2024 summer network.

Gulf carrier Belgrade capacity levels in 2023


  1. Anonymous09:07

    Could JU go for some of this business?
    It is big and growing bigger.

    1. Anonymous09:11

      JU is busy getting house in order, fixing fleet, signing deals with Menzies and LH Technik, getting new cabin crew etc

    2. Anonymous09:20

      That is a lot of passengers. JU should definitely launch flights to the UAE.
      I don't know what anything that Anon 09:11 wrote has to do with the Serbian-UAE market.

    3. Anonymous09:21

      Doha from Belgrade is mostly transfer and UAE flights are simply too long and expensive if we take in consideration that there are already 18 weekly flights on B738+A321 from Belgrade to UAE.

    4. Anonymous09:24

      They can't be that long and expensive when there are 18 weekly flights and close to half a million seat capacity.
      Market is there and is growing fast.

    5. Anonymous09:26

      You snooze you lose.
      ASL could have gone for flights to the Gulf but it didn't and now the Arab carriers established themselves in BEG.

    6. Nemjee10:05

      As long as JU keeps on operating without a concise commercial strategy they won't be able to survive in markets such as BEG-UAE.
      Furthermore, Air Serbia is starting to have serious staffing issues so unless a new approach to their employees is introduced they will struggle to keep on growing. Heck they might even struggle to maintain their current operations.

      With Mr Rupic's non-existent commercial strategy and vision coupled with Marek's failure to setup a sustainable business model Air Serbia will not be able to survive in highly competitive markets such as BEG-AUH/DXB.
      Air Serbia has silently discontinued ESB until the end of the year. Has JU actually bothered to do an analysis where it all went wrong? Ankara is not Kukes, Ohrid or Kosice, it's a major regional airport (from JU's perspective) with massive gasto demand to destinations covered by JU. So we had flights to ESB, flights from BEG to Europe, passengers were flying from Ankara ... but not with JU. Why?

      How come JU reduced IST and suspended ESB at a time when Serbia keeps on breaking records when it comes to Turkish arrivals?

      October 2023: 24.858 (+83.4%)
      01-10.2023: 176.168 (+67.2%)

      With such impressive numbers how on earth are they reducing flights to Turkey? To make things even more crazy, TK has considerably boosted BEG this winter. They even added 4 weekly from SAW.
      Merely adding flights left and right is not enough. You need a well defined and concise strategy on how to promote your brand in new markets. Airlines around the world are spending millions doing exactly that.

      Serbian economy is performing rather well. On top of that, with Sava Centar's opening Belgrade will start attracting a lot of congress participants. If JU fails to meet market demands then there are those who will.

      Lufthansa group is already gearing up for a fight. Starting from March 31 they are going to operate triple daily flights from VIE, ZRH, MUC and FRA. Wizz Air is suspiciously quiet which makes me think they are working on something big.

      Air Serbia has been growing like crazy the last couple of years. However, even with all this growth they only managed to hold 45% to 55% of the marketshare at BEG. What does that tell us? Well, it tells us that every second passenger who flew from BEG opted to do so with their competition. Air Serbia needs to do some soul searching in order to figure out why that is. Do I think they will do it? Don't think so. I just hope that they understand that deal with Menzies, Lufthansa Technik etc. mean little if you don't have your house in order and if you don't have enough passengers to make your business model sustainable.

    7. Anonymous10:28


    8. Anonymous11:49

      UAE is becoming a destination in itself but is still mostly transfer to/from Oceania and far east. Until there is an agreement with another airline to facilitate these transfers, JU will struggle to succeed. EY/EK make their schedules based on their needs and JU would have to work around them. They already have agreements with JU to feed traffic to their Europe flights for connections, so anything else would be pointless for now.

    9. Anonymous11:57

      FZ carries mostly point to point passengers on the Belgrade route. There are very few people from Australia using it in combination with Emirates. All Serbian ethnic tour operators in Australia sell Qatar Airways and people booking individually book with QR because it is significantly cheaper than the EK/FZ option. Telling you as someone living in Austrlia and visiting Serbia twice per year.

    10. Anonymous11:57

      Wizz has shown us how the situation has changed. I hope they keep on growing in BEG.

    11. Anonymous11:59

      I hope FZ adds more flights, they can't grow anymore with 2 daily.

    12. Anonymous12:24

      @nemjee … for Gods sake, why would anybody chose to fly to IST with JU over TK? Only if the schedule fits you so well… otherwise, JUs service and reputation are far below Turkish’. That’s why is quite reasonable and expected for them to cut off frequencies while TK will continue to increase it.

    13. Nemjee13:23

      If you are based in Belgrade then JU's schedule fits better. Months ago I wrote on here that it's an illusion to think TK will consider JU a partner. Cooperation between JU and TK did not come about naturally, it was forced on TK by the Turkish government.
      Fast forward to today we have TK with triple daily from IST, 4 weekly from SAW, 4 weekly from ESB and 2 weekly from ADB. I expect Anadoloujet to lobby to get access to AYT-BEG.

      Unless something changes then we will see Air Serbia struggle even more in their partner's home market. That is why I laughed so hard when I read on here Marek's statements about some joint-ventures and whatnot. Turkish Airlines is a global predator and they are teaming up with well-established carriers. Air Serbia for them is nothing more than a nuisance, an obstacle to fully dominating the Serbian market.

      For a whole decade TK had a massive ad on the Republic Square. They are present on Serbian TVs by sponsoring various sporting events. Corporate travel between the two countries will chose them over JU because of their Star Alliance membership and a well developed corporate program. Air Serbia on the other hand has just its schedule to rely upon plus a rare ad here and there.

      But hey, at least we have JU's statements where one day they are going to become part of TK's loyalty program, then the next day they don't want to be part of an alliance, then they turn around and say they are considering joining AF-KL's loyalty program... what will it be in the end? All those statements just show that there is no clear strategy in which direction things should go. Didn't we read on here how they are thinking about a JV with TK MRO? What happened to that since they just signed a deal with Lufthansa Technik?

      If I were JU, I would be pissed off that I am getting pushed out of TK's backyard (Turkey) while TK is overflowing JU's backyard with more and more flights (ex-YU region).
      Air Serbia needs to put their obsessive fascination with TK on hold. TK will never consider them as equal. One way around that is to forge closer times with carriers which are going through the same as they are. Aegean has a very tense relationship with them and they are competing in many neighboring markets. Getting close to A3 could make TK's life in the region slightly more complicated.Then there are MEA, Egyptair, TAROM etc.

      However for this in addition to a well developed commercial strategy you need an agile, competent and visionary alliances department. Does JU have what is needed to organize this regional power shift? Marek opened the door for the JU-TK cooperation but right now we see that JU got the code-share to feed TK's network while Turkish on the other hand got their third daily to BEG, they launched flights from ESB, ADB and now SAW. So who profited from this deal in the end? TK which expanded its reach into Serbia or JU which basically became a TK feeder airline.

    14. Anonymous15:15

      Nemjee you are making up lots of stories and posting lots of fak statments. We are not having staffing issues , I am actully currently away as I had none schedule pairing in the next 8 days. Recruting is never an issue and a very people have left the company except some students that wentvback to school in October. Also some first offocers are looking for extra hrs and they are not available due to AC leasing agreement . Please stop spreading fake info Nemjee.

    15. Nemjee15:44

      Aha... and what are you? Cabin crew? I suppose you are not a pilot as those guys know how many of their colleagues quit to go work for other airlines. If you are cabin crew then no wonder you are off as wet leases with foreign crew are flying like crazy. Let's see right now at 15.40:

      SX-RMA E95 TIV-BEG
      SX-PTM E90 FCO-BEG
      LY-TFS B738 ZRH-BEG
      OY-GDC E95 ATH-BEG

      4/9 flights in the regional wave are operated with leased planes with leased pilots and cabin crew. That's probably why you are not scheduled to fly.

    16. Anonymous16:24


    17. Slav.Man19:37

      I agree with @Nemjee. JU should find other favourable partners other than TK. I would have prefered JU to partner with the other South Slavic airlines to grow. So they could have a hold on the balkans. Or even LOT, to cover the entire eastern europe region. But the most realistic woud be Aegean. And would be much more successful economically and politically.

      They could do a lot together. especially since Aegean doesnt have long haul flights of their own.
      the presense of TK in the region is harming JU a lot. just saw that TK has overtaken JU by passangers carried in MNE last month.

    18. Anonymous08:57

      "to partner with the other South Slavic airlines to grow. "

    19. Anonymous09:52

      Not many left: Croatia Airlines, Bulgaria Air and Air Montenegro.

  2. Anonymous09:11

    With so much traffic why can't EK come to BEG?

    1. Anonymous09:18

      It seems that for EK arrival number of passengers is not the main point.
      Let's just remember that they arrived in ZAG in previous decade at the time when BEG and especially OTP had many more passengers than Croatian capital.

    2. Anonymous09:21

      So what is preventing EK from coming?

    3. Anonymous09:22

      I truly don't know.

    4. Anonymous09:31

      There is probably not that much premium demand which Emirates needs to fill business and first class on their B77W.

      When Emirates gets their A350 and B787 in less-premium configuration, then flights might make sense.

    5. Nemjee10:20

      I think markets such as BEG will be better served by FZ's 787s.

    6. Anonymous10:55

      flyDubai will use their B787s on routes where they have more than three flights per day. Belgrade is not such route.

      We have two options:
      1. flyDubai to increase frequencies to 21pw with B38M
      2. Emirates to start their own flights with A350/B787 7pw

      Second option will be better.

    7. Nemjee10:57

      Do we know for sure they will use them to destinations where they have triple daily or are you guessing?

      Don't forget that BEG-DXB is not a short route so the Dreamliner economics might be better. Also with Serbia and the UAE planning a free trade agreement, having more cargo space on the 787 might suit them better.

    8. Anonymous11:52

      A350 and B787 will be just as premium heavy as the 777. They will also increase fares in those cabins to support the new products. Serbia is not a premium heavy market with biz travellers to fill those seats. There is no benefit to EK, and by using FZ they can increase frequency instead of capacity. Once they have 3x daily FZ with 90% premium LF they will use EK since they will see the revenue on the sector.

    9. Anonymous12:00

      Flydubai's business class fares on the Belgrade route are pretty outrages. It is a fixed price throughout the year at 2,800 euros return.

    10. Anonymous12:01

      * outrageous

    11. Anonymous12:58

      Where does Emirates fly to the Balkans any way?

    12. Nemjee13:29

      EK Balkan destinations include ATH and IST. That said, from ATH they also fly to EWR.

  3. Anonymous09:14

    Such a big difference between UAE available seats and Qatar but it is understandable.
    UAE is serving both as a transfer and P2P destination with more and more Serbian tourists going to UAE for winter vacations.
    Tickets are cheap(ish) and accomodation can be found for peanuts nearby Mercato public beach oflr Jumeirah public beach.
    I am currently in the region (working on cruise ship going Dubai-Abu Dhabi-Sir Bani Yas-Doha-Dammam) and I can confirm that weather is amazing (around 30 degrees), water is hot (around 32 degrees), nights are chill and there are so many things you can do in UAE.

  4. Anonymous09:16

    Any numbers for other ex yu airports?

    1. Anonymous10:19

      There was a similar article for ZAG

    2. Anonymous10:22

      Interesting. Both QR and FZ had more passengers on Belgrade route than on the Zagreb route.

    3. Anonymous11:58

      Because BEG has little competition. ZAG has LJU, VCE, VIE, BUD...

    4. Anonymous12:07

      Sure, In Belgrade you also have 30+ Istanbul flights where airlines are vying for a similar market. There is huge competition in Ljubljana with just Flydubai (for this argument it seems everyone from Zagreb travels via Ljubljana), and I'm sure everyone from Zagreb drives to Venice and Vienna to catch a flight to Dubai.

    5. Anonymous12:08

      @11.58 you do realise Budapest is closer to Belgrade than it is to Zagreb?

    6. Anonymous12:18

      @11:58 that is the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard.

    7. Anonymous12:47

      Dobt forget there is jo border like between serbia and hungary

    8. Anonymous15:17


  5. Anonymous09:25

    I imagine Wizz Abu Dhabi is more p2p whereas the other two are more transfers
    I know it's a price sensitive market, but I would really never fly with Wizzair and those seats for more than 2 hrs.

    1. Anonymous10:13

      Flydubai is mostly P2P, Wizz Abu Dhabi is almost all P2P, Qatar is almost completely transfer.

    2. Anonymous11:54

      FlyDubai is a feeder for far east and Oceania services. P2P is not big enough on its own for double daily flights.

    3. Anonymous11:58

      ^ not true at all

  6. Anonymous10:16

    I have flown QR many times this year. BEG-DOH-BEG is always full including business. Lots of transfers from Australia and China and also more exotic destinations like Thailand and southeast Asia.

  7. Anonymous10:53

    QR needs to get rid of the recliner A320s on Belgrade route.. Real downgrade for business class passengers especially as Belgrade used to be on flatbed A320s much more often. Luckily the new night flight from Dec 23 seems to be on 320Ls (flatbeds) everyday so far.. Hope that doesn't change

    1. Anonymous11:50


    2. Anonymous11:51

      I'm pretty sure the night flights will stay with the lie flat seats. In summer 2019 when they added the three night flights for a few months they were all also all with lie flats.

    3. Anonymous11:55

      They get rid of the recliner and fares will increase to match the service offering. Flat bed seats to other parts of EU are 3-4x the fare to BEG.

    4. Anonymous12:00

      Well the fares on their evening flights with recliners are the same as on the other ones.

    5. Anonymous12:47

      Not sure that fares with lie flat are more expensive.. ZAG fares and BEG fares are both the same for business class and ZAG is always lie flat A320.

    6. Jovan12:54

      Definitely not gonna get more expensive with lie flats.. That's some nonsense. Belgrade actually used to be mostly lie flats beginning of this year and the fares were same. They still are ridicoulous tho, 3.5k EUR for return BEG DOH is insane. I always get them cheaper though as I continue onward to DXB 😂

    7. Anonymous14:21

      Fares have nothing to do with lie flat or non lie flat. You have entry levels and then the rest depends (upsells available) if demand to DOH or to final destination is high or low. Challenge is that QR business class cabin is globally in high demand, so no reason for QR to sell discounted for instance from BEG to BKK for 2000 EUR, when say customers from FRA or LON or ATH easily pay much more. If the route cannot cut it for one reason or the other, capacity is deployed elsewhere. So no reason to expect some significant promos in that cabin - or in economy for that matter, as load factor situation is also globally, but locally too very positive.

    8. Not to mention that QR fares even in business class are cheaper than anything else because their government is subsidizing them hardcore. More than any other gulf government. The service also happens to be better than elsewhere.

  8. Anonymous11:50

    Those are huge numbers for Flydubai.

  9. Anonymous11:54

    QR's numbers will be much better this year

  10. Anonymous12:04

    Wizz Air's numbers are actually really good considering they have the least number of flights of the three. In terms of capacity this year they only have a bit less compared to Etihad which had daily flights throughout the year and even double daily in some months during the summer.

  11. Anonymous13:24

    Once they get 787s they will put it on the route, that's for sure

  12. Anonymous14:50

    JU should launch AUH and they can be Wizzier than Wizz.

    1. Anonymous04:04

      Too long rotation. Price would not be competitive

  13. Anonymous16:54

    Reading some comments here about EK, BEG and most neighbouring countries do not have this type of profile for EK. FZ has a comfortable size of an aircraft, has a good business product and most distances are quite closer compared to Western Europe. Mind you, FZ now operates 3 daily from OTP (also most likely because of the increased number of Asian workers in Romania). In the case of BEG, no need to change FZ. Thing is that the UAE market seems to have demand. Well, why not also try and persuade Air Arabia back (although the interest was quite low and they suspended their flights before starting them)

    But, DXB is mostly P2P and transfer. For transfer you already have QR and TK.
    In the case of JU, a possible entry would be to team up again with EY, though still, it will be destined to transfers as well. At the time, it was successful somehow, but today things have changed.
    It is better for JU to focus on its current new network and avoid unnecessary and expensive routes. DXB is not so close and A330 is also not the best fit.

  14. Anonymous18:06

    Emirates can't get 787s fast enough as deliveries have been pushed back. Once they have them in substantial quantities, Emirates launching Belgrade is all but certain.

  15. Anonymous19:18

    Most interesting of the whole lot is Jazeera Airways.
    They seem to have opened Belgrade this year only to divert some over-capacity.
    They seem to fly to the most random places anyway so why not to Belgrade ?!
    Actually these airline would be extremely succesfull if their own government wouldnt sabotage them.
    Their Moscow flights were probably the most succesfull in their history untill they were killed of for the usual stupid political reasons.

    1. Anonymous06:11

      Jazeera was forced to suspend flights to Russia? Why?

    2. Anonymous19:38

      Kuwait introduced visa for Russians and drastically reduced frequencies to Moscow.
      It is support for US foreign policy but also slap in the face for Jazeera which is run by Indian immigrants.
      They dislike that a private airline is more succesfull than the national airline..


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