In the fall of 2013, the Serbian national airline embarked on a new journey. Air Serbia was established on the wings of tradition spanning over 80 years and propelled by an entirely new vision and energy.
After years of stagnation, the company was in need of a complete business transformation. With strong support from the Government of the Republic of Serbia, a strategic partnership was agreed with Etihad Airways on August 1, 2013, and on October 26 of the same year, the first flight of the future leading regional airline took off. An Airbus A319 aircraft with the registration code YU APC departed from Belgrade to Abu Dhabi. This aircraft was named “Novak Đoković,” in line with Air Serbia’s aim of demonstrating its winning mentality and determined approach to market competition.
This marked the beginning of a period of transformation for the company, and the introduction of a new brand and name was accompanied by full fleet renewal, network expansion, establishment of efficient processes, and implementation of new modern systems.
In less than a year, the fleet was expanded to include ten Airbus aircraft, eight A319s and two A320s. For the first time in history, women piloted the aircraft of the Serbian national airline.
After a hiatus of a quarter of a century, in June 2016, the service between Belgrade and New York was re-established. Air Serbia thus became the only airline in the broader Balkan region with a direct service to the United States. This historic milestone demonstrated the strength of the business strategy and the realization of the national airline’s vision, marking a new chapter in its operations.
In May 2017, Air Serbia wrote a new page in its history when the first plane with an all-female crew took off. From its inception to the present day, women have comprised half of the airline’s workforce.
After the transformation period, the year 2019 marked the beginning of the company’s growth phase. In that year, Air Serbia carried a record-breaking 2.81 million passengers. The company operated for the first time from all three international airports in Serbia – Nikola Tesla Airport in Belgrade, Constantine the Great Airport in Niš, and Morava Airport in Kraljevo. Traffic from Niš and Kraljevo commenced in the form of routes of public interest. During that year, a total of 23 new destinations were introduced from these three airports.
In March 2020, the expansion efforts were temporarily halted by the coronavirus pandemic, which became the largest crisis in the history of civil aviation. When the entire world came to a standstill, Air Serbia dedicated all its resources to serving the country and the people of Serbia. During the state of emergency, in collaboration with state authorities and organizations, dozens of special repatriation and evacuation flights were operated. These flights brought back Serbian citizens stranded at airports and in countries around the world, while foreign citizens were repatriated to their home countries. Over 10,000 people were carried during that period, and numerous cargo flights delivered hundreds of tons of medical equipment and supplies to our country.
After several challenging months, the recovery period began in 2021. Air Serbia’s fleet was strengthened with two new long-haul aircraft. The Airbus A330-200, named after and featuring the image of Nikola Tesla, joined Air Serbia’s fleet in June 2021, while an aircraft of the same type, bearing the name and image of Mihajlo Pupin, arrived in Belgrade in November 2022. This created the conditions for introducing new intercontinental destinations to the network of the Serbian national airline.
On December 9, 2022, Air Serbia commenced flights to Tianjin in the People’s Republic of China. This marked the reestablishment of a scheduled direct service to the Asian country after a 22-year hiatus. During the send-off of the inaugural flight to China, CEO Jiri Marek emphasized that the national airline was planning flights to other important cities in China.
The commercial service to China was the pinnacle of Air Serbia’s success in 2022. It was the first year since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic in which the company achieved a positive net and operating result, recording a profit of 21 million euros without a single euro of state subsidies. The good financial result was achieved thanks to efficient operations and consolidation measures implemented during the pandemic, a significant increase in the destination network, and a traffic volume growth of about 60% compared to 2021. This was a clear indicator of the company’s ability to react quickly and identify opportunities for recovery and growth.
On May 17, 2023, after more than 30 years of hiatus, the service between Belgrade and Chicago was re-established from Belgrade Nikola Tesla Airport. It was an important day for the Serbian national airline, Serbia, Belgrade, and the entire Western Balkans region. The third transatlantic route of Air Serbia and the second in North America proved to be significant and beneficial to passengers from the very beginning, contributing to the improved business, tourism, and all other connections between Serbia and the United States.
In 2023, all records for the number of completed flights and cabin load factor on a monthly basis were broken. In the first six months, Air Serbia launched 22 new destinations and operated 19,181 flights, which is 63% more compared to the same period in 2022. Preliminary financial results showed a profit of 22.4 million euros in the first half of the year, practically matching the profit for the entire year of 2022. Already in the first week of September, the result of 2.81 million passengers, achieved in the most successful year of 2019, was surpassed. In mid-September, for the first time in the history of Air Serbia, the number of carried passengers exceeded 3 million.
“The past 10 years have empowered us for the future. As a regional leader, we are entering a new decade of business. With the youngest fleet in the region, over 1,400 employees, and a clearly defined strategy for sustainable development, we are moving at an even faster pace, ready to adapt to any changes in the market, operate profitably, and constantly improve our service in the interest of our passengers,” Air Serbia CEO Jiri Marek said at the celebration of the company’s tenth anniversary.
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