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Air Serbia looks to 2014

The launch of Air Serbia has undoubtedly been the biggest event in the aviation industry in the former Yugoslavia in 2013. This time last year few could predict Etihad Airways would purchase a 49% stake in the debt ridden Serbian national carrier and relaunch it under a new brand. The airline’s CEO, Dane Kondić, says Air Serbia has achieved a lot since launching operations two months ago, on October 26. “In a short time we showed the world that Air Serbia is a dynamic and ambitious airline with a bright future. We have presented to the world the new identity of our brand, completely redesigned our offer and services, strengthened our sales and modernised the fleet”, Mr Kondić says. He adds, “We have also begun rebuilding our network, with our guests able to enjoy the benefits of a number of new destinations with favourable arrival and departure times”.

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Air Serbia begins ticket sales

Air Serbia has begun selling tickets for its 2013/14 winter season after loading most of its scheduling changes in global distribution systems. The airline, which will inaugurate flights to Abu Dhabi, Banja Luka, Bucharest, Ljubljana and Prague this winter, has begun advertising the new services in the country’s three leading newspapers. In addition, radio, public billboard and Internet advertisements are soon to follow. However, the schedule is still being tweaked and old Jat Airways flights removed. Compared to its preliminary schedule published by EX-YU Aviation News two weeks ago, Air Serbia will move its Istanbul operations from Ataturk to Sabiha Gokcen Airport on a temporary basis. As EX-YU Aviation News learns, the last minute change occurred after the Serbian carrier was unable to secure new slot times at Istanbul’s main airport Attaturk. Other services will see a significant boost in frequencies compared to last winter season.
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Air Serbia has launched a promotional ticket sale, offering flights to its new destinations at discounted prices until March 2014. Tickets at these prices can be purchased until the end of September. Furthermore, the airline’s website is also to be launched in the coming period at airserbia.com and air-serbia.com. All passengers who have purchased tickets on former Jat Airways flights this winter will be reissued with new ones in the next few days. Tickets can also be purchased for the summer of 2014 with further frequency increases taking place such as the introduction of a second daily flight to Sarajevo and daily flights to Abu Dhabi.

Meanwhile, a second Air Serbia A319 has received the new corporate livery and interior at Phoenix Goodyear Airport. The carrier’s CEO, Dane Kondić, says a total of six Airbus A319s will join Air Serbia by the end of the year with a further two joining by the start of the 2014 summer season. The airline will further expand its fleet in 2016 and is considering purchasing A320Nneos, B737 MAX and Bombardier CS300 series aircraft. Mr. Kondić confirmed earlier reports by EX-YU Aviation News that the carrier’s Airbus fleet will have the capacity to seat 128 passengers – eight in “luxurious” business class and 120 in economy.

In his first address to Jat Airways/Air Serbia employees as CEO, Mr. Kondić said among other things, “Today is the start of a rewarding yet challenging journey for Air Serbia. It will be rewarding because we will succeed in building the leading airline in the region. I have no doubt that we will impress everyone, including ourselves, when we stand back in twelve months to look at what we have created. More importantly, we will have worked as a team. We will have used all our skills and expertise to find solutions for all the challenges along the way. We are building a performance-based culture where people are accountable for their responsibilities and recognised for their achievements. It is challenging because we need to think and work differently in order to get different and better results for the organisation. And it is challenging because we will need to deal with, and exceed, very high expectations of our guests, and the community”. Air Serbia launches official operations on October 27.

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Jat gets new CEO Dane Kondić

The Jat Airways Joint Stock Assembly yesterday approved the endorsement of the Serbian government to name Dane Kondić as the new CEO and President of the airline, relieving acting CEO Velibor Vukašinović of his duties. Mr. Kondić, who will head Jat through its transitional period over the next month and a half before taking on the role of CEO of Air Serbia, has outlined the airline’s goals over the next few years, with the short term objectives being new aircraft and new routes as well as joint training, procurement, sales and marketing with Etihad Airways. Mr. Kondić (48), was born in Sydney to Serbian parents. He graduated economics at the University of New South Wales in Sydney and started his career with Qantas before becoming the General Manager of Worldwide Sales for Malaysia Airlines. He subsequently moved to take on the challenge of managing a tour operator, and was heading the North Asia region for a major wholesaler, based in Hong Kong before taking up a position at Etihad Airways. Mr. Kondić becomes the first non political appointment to head the airline since the Jat brand was launched 66 years ago.

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Velibor Vukašinović who served as Jat Airways’ acting CEO since May 8, 2013 can be credited for managing to return most of Jat’s fleet to the sky. Mr. Vukašinović took over the airline when only seven aircraft were in operation. By leasing a further four aircraft the airline is now operating a fleet of fifteen. During that time the carrier has seen its passenger numbers improve and losses reduce. In his farewell address yesterday to all of Jat’s employees Mr. Vukašinović said amongst other thing, “I would like to thank you all for your cooperation and the results we have achieved in very harsh conditions. It has been an honour and pleasure to lead such a group of professionals, excellent workers and even better people who have managed to save the Serbian national carrier despite all the wars, sanctions, bombing, poverty and bad political influences which have all deeply reflected on the airline. You should be proud that nothing could break your spirits and that every time the airline rose like the phoenix from the ashes”. Mr. Vukašinović wished Jat all the best in its next chapter.

As the official launch date of the rebranded Serbian national carrier approaches on October 27, the airline is preparing to put up for sale its first tickets according to its revised timetable. Yesterday the airline ran test by temporarily adding revised flight times, fares and equipment to global distribution systems such as Monastir for the summer of 2014 Today, Air Serbia is organising yet another round of crew casting and is also hiring in flight chefs as part of its new in flight dining concept.

Air Serbia has begun adding its winter 2013/14 flight schedule to global reservation systems and are now available for view. The flights will be added throughout the day today and tomorrow. Also added are new flights to Ljubljana, Bucharest, Banja Luka and Prague.

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Air Serbia’s fleet takes shape

Air Serbia’s fleet is starting to take shape after the first, former Volaris Airbus A319, was painted and overhauled by Aero Turbine Aviation Solutions at Phoenix Goodyear Airport. The new look has been greeted with positive reviews from the public with Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Aleksandar Vučić commenting that, “airserbiaThe aircraft looks great. I think you will see a completely new airline on October 27”. In addition to the already revealed livery design, the aircraft features a large red Air Serbia logo on the undercarriage. As EX-YU Aviation News exclusively learns, the aircraft has already received the Air Serbia interior and features eight seats in business class and a further 120 seats in economy. Unlike most European airlines, the business class section does not feature the same seats as in economy and offers a completely different product. The new cabins have been based around those of Etihad Airways and are set to give major European airlines a run for their money on their narrow body fleet.

Air Serbia’s first aircraft is thirteen years old. A further four have already been leased from Volaris, TACA International and TACA Peru. Air Serbia will present the aircraft to the Serbian and international press in Belgrade several days prior to the launch of the 2013/14 winter season. It is also set to put on a lavish show in Belgrade to launch the new look Serbian carrier in the week starting October 21. Read the full story

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Jat and Etihad in final takeover talks

Jat and Etihad in final takeover talks

Etihad Airways will today begin final takeover talks with Jat Airways as it looks to acquire a 49% stake in the airline. A three member delegation from the national carrier of the United Arab Emirates will arrive in Belgrade today where they will meet with the acting CEO of Jat Velibor Vukašinović. Furthermore, Etihad will hold talks with officials at Jat Tehnika, Jat Catering and SU-PORT (Jat’s ground handling division). In addition, talks will be held with Jat’s fuel provider NIS (The Petroleum Industry of Serbia). From June 15, Jat will begin selling Etihad Airways tickets to cities where the Serbian carrier will place its flight numbers. Tickets will also be available for purchase on Jat’s website.

According to the Serbian daily “Politika”, Etihad will take over the airline on July 1. However, it will officially begin running the carrier from September 1, following the end of the peak summer season. Due to a lack of aircraft, Jat’s summer is unlikely to be a success with a decrease in both passenger numbers and an increase in losses anticipated. In order to avoid being associated with negative trends, Etihad would take control of the airline from September. Etihad is to name its own CEO for Jat while the President of the airline will be named by the Serbian government, which will continue to hold a majority 51% stake. Mr. Vukašinović notes that talks with Etihad are progressing and are “excellent”.

Meanwhile, Jat’s fleet situation is improving after another Boeing 737 joined the fleet over the weekend following regular technical checks. The airline now has one Boeing 737-200, six Boeing 737-300s and two ATR 72s operating in its fleet with another ATR72 and B737-300 to join in two weeks. “We want to end the previous management’s practice of cancelling and delaying flights”, Mr. Vukašinović said to the “Tanjug” newsagency yesterday. He added, “Talks for the lease of two Airbus A319s from Adria Airways are in their final stages and we plan to lease a ATR72 soon”.

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Jat rebranding

Yesterday marked 65 years since the introduction of the JAT/Jat brand, however fresh reports suggest that the potential new owners of the Serbian carrier, a group of local businessmen, wants the name retired. Miroslav Mišković, Miodrag Kostić and Miroslav Bogićević are tipped to invest 25 million euros into the new carrier in return for a 50% share in the airline. The new owners also want the next CEO to be an expert in the aviation industry from abroad. As EX-YU aviation understands, Miroslav Mišković, who is set to invest the most into the new carrier, recently hired the Deloitte financial consulting company to provide a review of Jat’s current business.

Despite the Serbian government claiming that Jat will have new owners by May 2012, before general elections are held in the country, reports surfaced yesterday that Jat’s privatisation and subsequent rebranding will be left to a new government. The current administration was to begin tender procedures in search of a new owner for the carrier this month but a deepening feud with Airbus cancelled such plans. Airbus, which is considering on suing the government over a 1998 order for eight A319s is said to have been further angered when it heard the government has been negotiating with Boeing over an aircraft order.

The “JAT” brand was introduced following World War Two. The recognisable “egg” livery was introduced in the 1950s. Following the breakup of Yugoslavia and the easing of international sanctions on Yugoslav air travel, the “flame/wing” livery was introduced, in 1994. Finally, in 2003, as the name Yugoslavia became history and the country was renamed to Serbia and Montenegro the airline changed its name to Jat Airways and introduced the “dot” livery created by a Slovenian design team, seleccted through an international competition.

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