Qatar Airways has announced a comprehensive codeshare agreement with Air Serbia, the airline of Central European Serbia. The agreement follows an earlier interline partnership between the two airlines. What makes it extra interesting is that Air Serbia is still partly owned by another Arabian carrier: Etihad. Qatar Airways ties up with Air Serbia- but what’s left for Etihad?
The new codeshare agreement becomes effective on February 1. It connects the networks of the two airlines. Qatar Airways will get access to the seventy destinations that Air Serbia serves in Central and Eastern Europe, most of them from Belgrade. Qatar already operates five weekly services to Belgrade, but this will be increased to daily from March 26.
From Belgrade, Qatar customers will also have access to Russia. As a non-EU country, Serbia and its airline are not restricted by the EU sanctions on Russia that were imposed following the start of the war in Ukraine last February.
Air Serbia’s customers get access to Qatar Airways’ network and codeshare on flights to Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney, Perth, Tbilisi, Hong Kong, Singapore, Nairobi, or Ho Chi Minh City, amongst others. The airlines still need regulatory approval for the codeshare to Johannesburg, Cape Town, Seoul, Tokyo, Yerevan, Zanzibar, Bangkok, and Phuket.
The codeshare with Qatar Airways marks a change in policy at Air Serbia. When it adopted its current name in 2013, the airline attracted an investment from Etihad Airways, which took a 49 percent share. Under Tony Douglas, this share was reduced to eighteen percent in 2018 and is now at 16.4 percent, with the remainder owned by the Serbian state. Passengers on Air Arabia can benefit from Etihad’s loyalty program and earn miles.
But in recent media interviews, Air Serbia’s management said that they wanted to distance themselves from Etihad and go their own way on partners and strategies. How this will work out for the Etihad share in Air Serbia remains to be seen.
Air Serbia operates a fleet of 22 aircraft, including ten Airbus A319ceo’s, two A320ceo’s, two A330-200s, and eight ATR 72-600s. The average age of the fleet is just over fifteen years.
Active as a journalist since 1987, with a background in newspapers, magazines, and a regional news station, Richard has been covering commercial aviation on a freelance basis since late 2016.
Richard is contributing to AirInsight since December 2018. He also writes for Airliner World, Aviation News, Piloot & Vliegtuig, and Luchtvaartnieuws Magazine. Twitter: @rschuur_aero.