Air Serbia, the national airline of the Republic of Serbia, made history this morning as it launched a five-per-week transatlantic service between Belgrade and New York.
The long-awaited first flight – JU500 – was met with great fanfare as it touched down in New York at 12:00 p.m., reconnecting Serbia and the United States with a non-stop Serbian-operated air service after a break of 24 years.
The Airbus A330 aircraft, with the airline’s bold colours and iconic double-headed eagle painted on its tailfin, was welcomed to John F. Kennedy International Airport by a traditional water cannon salute after the 11-hour flight.
Onboard the aircraft was a group of senior airline and government officials, headed by Zorana Mihajlović, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Construction, Transport and Infrastructure in the Government of Serbia.
Guests flying on the service were presented with certificates as well as a unique jigsaw piece for a puzzle of the distinctive New York skyline to commemorate their role in the historic occasion.
Prime Minister Vučić said: “Today is a very proud and happy day for Air Serbia and the country and people of Serbia. It feels great to be back in New York.
“This is the first flight operated by a Serbian carrier to the United States since 1992, and it shows the huge steps we have taken to develop our economy and reposition our country and capital Belgrade on the world map.
“Re-establishing this air bridge will give an enormous push to the flow of tourism and trade between Serbia, the wider Balkans region and the United States, and is, unequivocally, the start of a bright new chapter for our national airline and Serbia.”
Siniša Mali, Chairman of the Supervisory Board of Air Serbia and Mayor of Belgrade, said: “Landing at JFK Airport today is a major step forward for Air Serbia as it is the first long-haul route and wide-body operation for the airline.
“Air Serbia has progressed in leaps and bounds since it was launched in 2013, and we enter the United States market with a fantastic product and service offering that we are confident will appeal to travellers.
“Added to this, Serbia is becoming a popular holiday destination for American leisure travellers, who are enticed by its many attractions, from the famous nightlife of Belgrade to the ski resorts of Kapaonik and spa towns of Vrnjačka Banja.”
James Hogan, Vice Chairman of the Supervisory Board, Air Serbia and President and Chief Executive Officer of the Etihad Aviation Group, said: “Air Serbia’s introduction of non-stop services between Belgrade and the Big Apple is significant as it shows the airline’s progress and the strength of its business strategy.
“It also demonstrates the benefits of Etihad Airways Partners, whose member airlines provided support every step of the way, with Air Serbia pilots undergoing training in Rome with Alitalia, the cabin crew completing service and safety training in Abu Dhabi with Etihad Airways, and the A330 being leased from Jet Airways.
“We are delighted to see an Air Serbia aircraft at John F. Kennedy International Airport serving guests travelling between Belgrade and New York.”
Dane Kondić, Chief Executive Officer of Air Serbia, said: “The commencement of our Belgrade – New York service is the culmination of months of hard work and the realization of our vision to be the best airline in the region.
“With five flights a week on our Airbus A330, this route will have more than 133,000 return seats per year, representing a great opportunity to grow tourism and business at both ends of the Atlantic.
“We expect strong demand for this route, especially from ‘Visiting Friends and Relatives’, as estimates indicate there are upwards of 200,000 people of Serbian descent in the United States, with thousands more when other Balkan diasporas are taken into account.
“This service has been conveniently scheduled to provide our long-haul customers with easy onward connections over Belgrade to cities across Europe, and on the other side, we are working with American Airlines and airlines of Etihad Airways Partners to increase our network reach from New York to cities such as Chicago, an important Serbian population centre.”
The flight is operated on a modern Airbus A330-200 aircraft configured with 254 seats, fully lie-flat seats and inflight entertainment systems at every seat with the latest films, music and TV shows in English and Serbian.