Etihad Airways investment in Air Serbia helps traffic growth at Belgrade Airport

Air Serbia, which launched two new services this week to Prague and Banja Luka, has been rapidly expanding its presence in the Serbian market, commanding nearly 47% of weekly flights and seats at the capital city, Belgrade.

Located in the Balkans at the crossroads of Central and Southern Europe, Serbia borders Hungary to the north, Romania and Bulgaria to the east, Macedonia to the south, as well as Croatia, Bosnia and Montenegro to the west. The landlocked country is still disputing the region of Kosovo, which declared its independence from Serbia in 2008, which has since been recognised by 106 United Nations member states.

Serbia’s only international airports, which dominate the country’s passenger traffic, are Belgrade and Nis Airports, handling a combined 3.39 million passengers in 2012. Belgrade is the main gateway to the country, handling 3.02 million passengers in the first ten months of 2013. During the 2006 and 2012 period, the country’s aviation market has recorded a yearly increase of 7% in traffic, rapidly recovering after the economic crisis that hit Europe in 2008. In the first eleven months of 2013, for which data is already available, the two airports recorded a traffic increased of 4.2% compared to the corresponding period of the previous year, with 3.29 million passengers achieved until end-November. If the airport continues on this growth trajectory, it will achieve close to 3.53 million passengers in 2013, based on forecasts.

Serbia Airport Traffic 2006-2013*  Annual Passengers (millions) and year-on-year growth

Source: Individual Airports 2006-2013. * forecast.

Air Serbia bosses Belgrade

Unsurprisingly, Air Serbia, the former JAT Airways, which has been undergoing a restructuring campaign since Etihad Airways acquired a 49% stake in October, is by far the dominant airline at Belgrade, operating on 27 routes and commanding nearly 47% of weekly flights and seats (on that basis it has been excluded from the following graph). The carrier has grown rapidly in 2013, increasing its seat capacity by 40% and flights by 34.3% when compared to 2012. A series of routes have been recently launched, such as the daily services to Prague in Czech Republic and Banja Luka in Bosnia and Herzegovina on 1 December. In addition, the carrier, which has a fleet of 21 aircraft and another 16 on order, is looking forward to expanding its European network with two more daily services on 10 December, this time to Bucharest and Ljubljana.

Top 12 Airlines at Belgrade Airport Share of weekly flights and seats

Source: Innovata / Diio Mi w/c 3 December

As of December 2013, Air Serbia along with the top 12 airlines, represent a seat share of 95.3% at Belgrade. Both Wizz Air and Austrian Airlines have strengthened their presence with annual growth in weekly seats of 38.8% and 13% respectively, while Alitalia has recorded the greatest decrease (-34%), when compared to December 2012. Pegasus Airlines, easyJet and Etihad are new entrants in the Serbian market in 2013, the latter operating a 3,830-kilometre daily service to Abu Dhabi, utilising its 106-seat A319s.

10 out of top 13 country markets growing

Seat capacity has been increased by 23.6% at Belgrade, with 10 out of 13 country markets recording growth, when comparing data from December with the same week last year. The stand out performances are those emanating from Russia, Turkey and Greece, with all three experiencing annual growth of over 70%. On the other hand, the services to Austria have provided the largest capacity decrease (-23.8%), as a result of NIKI withdrawing from this market, along with Air Serbia reducing its weekly seat offer by 18.1%.

Top 13 Country Markets at Belgrade Airport Weekly one-way capacity

Source: Innovata / Diio Mi w/c 3 December

Germany has managed to maintain its top position in 2013; however three new entrants have made it to this year’s ranking, namely Czech Republic, Hungary, and Israel. Air Serbia started serving both Israel and Czech Republic in 2013, with four-weekly services to Tel Aviv and a daily service to Prague, while Budapest in Hungary has been launched by Belavia with twice-weekly services.

16 new services from Belgrade so far in 2013

Since the start of the year, Belgrade has welcomed 16 new city pairs from nine different carriers. Air Serbia (with five services) and Wizz Air (with four) are the only airlines that have launched more than one service so far in 2013. Out of the 16 destinations, Abu Dhabi is the most frequently served destination, as a result of Etihad’s daily service and Air Serbia’s four-weekly services.

Launch Date Destination Airline WF (aircraft)
01-Feb Istanbul (SAW) Pegasus Airlines 4 (B738)
31-Mar Stockholm (ARN) Air Serbia 3 (B733)
02-Apr Warsaw (WAW) LOT Polish Airlines 5 (E70)
06-Apr Stockholm (ARN) Norwegian 1 (B738)
19-Apr Milan (MXP) easyJet 3 (A319)
31-May Split (SPU) Croatia Airlines 2 (DH4)
01-Jun Paris (BVA) Wizz Air 3 (A320)
02-Jun Oslo (TRF) Wizz Air 2 (A320)
15-Jun Rhodes (RHO) Wizz Air 1 (A320)
15-Jun Abu Dhabi (AUH) Etihad Airways 7 (A319)
20-Jun Corfu (CFU) Wizz Air 1 (A320)
19-Sep Budapest (BUD) Belavia 2 (CRJ)
27-Oct Istanbul (SAW) Air Serbia 4 (B733)
27-Oct Abu Dhabi (AUH) Air Serbia 4 (A319)
01-Dec Prague (PRG) Air Serbia 7 (AT7)
02-Dec Banja Luka (BNX) Air Serbia 7 (AT7)
Source: New Route Database

Second airport in Serbia, currently with no commercial services

Nis Airport, the second largest airport in Serbia with 27,426 passengers handled in 2012, currently has no commercial services as Darwin Airline and Montenegro Airlines decided to terminate their operations in January and October respectively. Darwin flew to Geneva and Zurich, while Montenegro Airlines operated to Podgorica in Montenegro from Nis.

Pristina Airport – traffic declines as Belle Air Europe collapses

Pristina Airport, which handled 1.5 million passengers last year, serves the capital of Kosovo, a region still disputed by Serbia. The airport had served as a hub for Belle Air Europe until this week, when the subsidiary of Belle Air ceased its operations too, as a result of its parent’s demise. The low-cost carrier was the dominant player at Pristina, serving eleven destinations and commanding 25.4% of weekly flights. As of December 2013, other notable carriers serving the airport are Turkish Airlines, operating double-daily flights to Istanbul, and Austrian which links Vienna with ten weekly services. This year, Germania launched twice weekly services to London Gatwick on 29 June, while, Pegasus Airlines inaugurated the route to Antalya on 20 May, operated with twice-weekly flights.


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