A revitalised Air Serbia took to the skies, with new aircraft, new routes and new partnerships. The new revamped look was officially launched by deputy prime minister Aleksandar Vučić, at an event for senior government figures and other VIPs, and airline employees.
The carrier’s first Airbus A319 showcased the new logo bearing a stylised Serbian national coat of arms designed by Serbian student Tamara Maksimovic, was unveiled by DPM Vučić at Belgrade Airport.
From 26 October, Air Serbia will launch a new route from its hub at Belgrade’s Nikola Tesla International Airport to Abu Dhabi, with routes to Banja Luka (Bosnia), Bucharest (Romania), Ljubljana (Slovenia) and Prague (Czech Republic) to be launched by the end of 2013. These new flights add to the 29 destinations previously served by the airline as part of its 2013 summer schedule.
Air Serbia also plans to launch another seven new routes between January and April 2014, in addition to rescheduling existing operations to optimise connections via its hub in Belgrade. By June 2014, it will have doubled frequencies and capacity, to serve 43 destinations in 30 countries, with 73,000 seats on more than 670 flights a week.
Eight Airbus A319 and two A320 aircraft have been leased, the first part of a two-phase fleet modernisation strategy which will give Air Serbia one of the most modern and efficient fleets in the region. The first of these A319 aircraft, unveiled today, has the new two-class configuration, with eight seats in Business Class and 120 in Economy. Five more Airbus A319s will be in service within the next two months, with another four in 2014.
As a member of Etihad Airways’ ‘equity alliance’, which today includes another five partner airlines (airberlin, Air Seychelles, Aer Lingus, Virgin Australia and Jet Airways*, subject to regulatory approval), Air Serbia will also be able to leverage revenue and cost benefits including new codesharing opportunities, joint procurement, and shared training and staff development.
The Deputy Prime Minister of Serbia, Aleksandar Vučić, said: “The launch of Air Serbia marks an important new beginning for the airline industry in our country. Having a strong and successful airline is vital for Serbia’s future economic development and growth.”
Vučić said the government-initiated program to right-size the company was an important step in building a strong airline. “We have had to initiate short-term measures to improve the health of this business. Now, with new investment and with a strong business partner, we can be sure of a positive future.”
Etihad Airways will make available a US$ 40 million loan facility which will be converted into a 49% equity stake in January 2014, subject to regulatory approval. This will be matched by an equal funding injection by the Government of Serbia. Etihad Airways and the Government of Serbia will also each provide a shareholder loan of up to US$ 60 mn to meet working capital requirements and support network development for Air Serbia.