Air Serbia To Further Explore China Potential

Air Serbia CEO Jiří Marek.

Air Serbia CEO Jiří Marek speaks at Routes Europe 2023 in Lodz, Poland.

Credit: Ocean Driven Media

LODZ, Poland—Air Serbia plans to expand its presence in mainland China after the launch of a route connecting Belgrade and Tianjin proved successful. 

During a speech at Routes Europe 2023 in Lodz, Poland, CEO Jiří Marek announced the airline's intentions to target further growth in China, with service to Beijing and Shanghai within the carrier’s sights.

“Our next expansion will target the Chinese market,” Marek says. “Before the pandemic, there was already the justification for nonstop Serbia-China flights, but the COVID crisis has opened new opportunities.”

Marek adds: “There is no visa regime between China and Serbia, which is unusual in Europe. As there is a backlog for Chinese citizens wanting to visit Europe, we’re taking the opportunity to offer Serbia as the destination.

“Additionally, there’s a strong labor flow as well, because there’s a lot of Chinese investment going into Serbian infrastructure projects.”

Marek says that there is also the potential to boost tourism flows from China, targeting an older generation who “still remember Yugoslavia and are interested in coming to Serbia” and the younger generation who can connect through Belgrade and on to other destinations in Spain, Italy or Greece.

Air Serbia launched Belgrade-Tianjin in December 2022, initially operating 1X-weekly using Airbus A330-200s. The service saw the national carrier re-establish direct flights to China for the first time since October 2000 when predecessor JAT Airways ended its link to Beijing. 

Tianjin is a municipality and a coastal metropolis in northern China on the shore of the Bohai Sea, home to a population of 14 million. The city is a key trade port through which Beijing is supplied, while a 117-km-long (106-mi.) high-speed rail line connects Tianjin with China’s capital in about 30 minutes.

Air Serbia’s plans to expand in the Chinese market come as the airline prepares to open a new route to the U.S. from May 17, connecting Belgrade and Chicago O’Hare, operating 2X-weekly using A330s before rising to 3X-weekly in June. 

According to estimates, there are about 350,000 residents of Serbian origin in the Chicago vicinity, as well as inhabitants hailing from other countries of the former Yugoslavia and neighboring Balkan states.

Alongside the Serbian diaspora, Marek says that Chicago is less seasonal than some other North American markets, such as Toronto, and has strong cargo potential.

David Casey

David Casey is Editor in Chief of Routes, the global route development community's trusted source for news and information.