Belgrade/London, AP and Asharq Al-Awsat—Air Serbia, the Balkan country’s new national carrier partly owned by Etihad Airways, formally starts flying this weekend, spelling the end for the old loss-making JAT Airways.On Friday, Air Serbia’s chief manager, Dane Kondic, said the company’s inaugural flight will take place on Saturday to Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. He says that “it is an important flight that will mark a crossroads.”
In a ceremony at Belgrade’s airport, Kondic and deputy prime minister Aleksandar Vucic unveiled an Airbus A319 plane bearing a double-headed eagle logo in Serbia’s national, red, white and blue colors—the first of the company’s future fleet.
Etihad Airways acquired 49 percent in JAT Airways in August and will manage the company over the next five years.
The Abu Dhabi-based carrier says it plans to modernize Air Serbia’s fleet while trimming its workforce and moving key operations, including personnel training, to the UAE.
All but one of the Serbian national carrier’s current routes are to Europe, but with the new partnership it will launch new routes to the Middle East and North Africa, beginning with Abu Dhabi, Beirut and Cairo. Its only current route outside Europe is to Monastir, Morocco.
The acquisition is part of a wider strategy by Etihad to build its Equity Alliance, which it began in 2007 after being rejected for membership in a number of major global airline alliances.
As part of that strategy, it also holds stakes in Air Seychelles, Air Berlin, Jet Airways, Virgin Australia, and Aer Lingus.