Serbia’s Deputy PM Aleksandar Vučić and UAE national airline Etihad CEO James Hogan signed a strategic partnership agreement in Belgrade on Thursday.
The agreement also rebranded Serbian national carrier Jat Airways into Air Serbia.
Air Serbia will be the safest airline, Hogan stated, while Vučić said the company would make Serbia the leader in the region by the end of the year and the most powerful in a radius of countries with nearly 100 million people.
“This is a great and important day for Serbia, because an airplane with the logo of the Serbian company will go onto the take-off runway, while the deal with Etihad will enable a technological and business environment in which 30 million passengers will get a reliable airline to important destinations in the world,” Vučić remarked.
Serbia has to justify the confidence placed in it, because work will be measured by the criteria of the most developed part of the world from this day on, he noted.
Vučić thanked outgoing Minister of Economy Mlađan Dinkić and other associates who had put a lot of energy in building something representing a beginning and a new face of Serbia.
He thanked Jat Airways for its wisdom and maturity to see the new vision of the company and the country.
Vučić believes Sheikh Mohammed, “whose vision and desire is for Serbia to be stronger, more modern and more successful,” will visit Serbia again and more joint project like this one will be realized.
“Wings of Serbia, Serbia’s new wings will fly soon, before the end of this year, with ten new airplanes,” he stated.
Etihad bought 49 percent of Jat Airways, and the government will remain as the majority owner of the airline with a 51 percent share. The company will now have a new name, Air Serbia.
The airline will get 10 new Airbus aircraft by the end of 2013 and hire 50 pilots.
Experts expect that finding a home for Serbia’s national airline should solve the problems with Jat Airways’ operation, as the company currently has a debt of EUR 195 million.
Etihad has 77 aircraft and 10 million passengers a year, and it flies to destinations in the Middle East, Africa, Europe, Asia and Australia.
The airline has a 29 percent share in Air Berlin, 40 percent in Air Seychelles, 3 percent in Air Lingus, 9 percent in Virgin Australia and it is in the process of taking over 24 percent of India’s Jet Airways.
Jat Airways was established 66 years ago and today, and after 3 valuations, 4 invitations for applications of potential strategic partners and an attempt to let Serbian businessmen run the company, it has finally got a strategic partner.
The airline has been divided into a number of other companies since 2000. It has lost the Belgrade, Podgorica and Tivat airports, which it invested in. Jat Catering, Jat Tehnika and Jat Hotels have all split off and the large property acquired in the past has been diminishing.
Jat Airways currently has 1,200 employees, many of which are redundant, according to assessments, and will be covered by a social programme.
According to projections, the new company could have 22 planes and it will mostly connect the countries of the former Yugoslavia, Europe, the Middle East, Australia and America.