With help from Etihad Airways equity partners, Air Serbia has launched flights to the United States. This is the first Transatlantic route for the airline, and marks a return of direct services between Serbia and the USA after a 24-year absence.
Air Serbia will offer five-times-a-week scheduled flights between Belgrade and New York JFK International Airport. The route is operated with an Airbus A330-200 aircraft.
The New York service schedule was programmed to help long-haul customers find easy onward connections over Belgrade to cities across Europe with Etihad Airways Partners.
The A330 aircraft used for the route has been configured with 254 seats, in two classes. Business class has fully lie-flat seats, and there is modern Audio Video On Demand (AVOD) inflight entertainment at every seat featuring the latest films, music and TV shows in English and Serbian.
148 Air Serbia cabin crew, who will serve the route, completed A330 aircraft type rating training at Etihad Airways’ headquarters in Abu Dhabi. Etihad Airways has also trained over 450 Air Serbia crew on narrow body A319 and A320 aircraft since 2013.
36 Air Serbia Cabin Seniors who will be Cabin Managers underwent a dedicated 3-day Leadership training course in Abu Dhabi as well as specific training in Belgrade.
Etihad Airways has also given Air Serbia 20 cabin crew to support the first three months of the New York route launch. They will serve as group ambassadors and to assist with onboard service delivery and ensure a continuity of group brand service.
Alitalia gave 32 Air Serbia pilots classroom and flight simulator cockpit training at Alitalia’s A330 flight simulators in Rome to help the Air Serbia flight crew achieve for Airbus A330 certification, specifically for the Belgrade—New York route.
Alitalia has also seconded two A330 Captains to Air Serbia. They will share best practices and expertise on A330 operations with Air Serbia colleagues as they familiarise themselves with the Transatlantic route.
airberlin has previously trained a number of Air Serbia pilots on other aircraft types.
Additionally, Etihad Airways sent three flight instructors to support Air Serbia during the A330 introduction to New York. Three Air Serbia pilots are also seconded to Etihad Airways for flight training.
Etihad Airways will provide flight data monitoring and analysis for all Air Serbia flights.
Jet Airways leased the A330 used on this route to Air Serbia and Etihad Airways provides technical and maintenance support.
The design, sourcing and certification of the aircraft’s interior refurbishment program was coordinated by teams from Etihad Airways and Air Serbia working with various suppliers. The refurbishment program has been ongoing since the end of last year.
Etihad Airways division Etihad Airways Engineering repainted the A330 in Air Serbia’s new livery and was responsible for the aircraft interiors refresh and installation, with new seat fabrics in Business and Economy Class, new carpets, new galleys, new lavatories and new partitions.
Etihad Airways Engineering also worked with inflight entertainment system supplier Panasonic to add full wi-fi connectivity across both cabins of the aircraft as an enhanced passenger experience feature for Air Serbia customers.
In all, up to 80 Etihad Airways and Air Serbia staff were involved in the transformation of the A330.
Alitalia is providing ongoing engineering support for the Air Serbia fleet, while Etihad Airways Engineering will handle aircraft turnarounds at New York JFK International Airport.
Alitalia is also assisting with back office engineering support of the aircraft in service.
Etihad Airways, Jet Airways, Alitalia and airberlin – played a key role over the past six months helping Air Serbia prepare for the new route launch. They provided engineering, fleet planning and technical support, pilot to cabin crew training, and marketing, legal and guest service backing.
This follows the Etihad Airways partners group strategy of resource sharing to achieve greater efficiencies and synergies. Through this collaboration, Air Serbia equity partners achieved economies of scale.
The Air Serbia Transatlantic launch follows Etihad Airway’s partnership through investment business model which is helping to build a suite of boutique flagship brands—harmonised under common Etihad Airways product and service standards.
While the objective of all airline alliances is to accomplish similar synergies and service standards, the independent operations of alliance members can often lead to cross-purposes and even some push-back on group standard proposals.
With a 49% stake in Air Serbia, Etihad Airways has the authority to require and take an active role in the shaping of partner airline brands and the evolution of their service models.
“Cooperation and collaboration between the equity partners has been second to none,” says James Hogan, Etihad Aviation Group President and Chief Executive Officer. Hogan is also Vice Chairman of the Supervisory Board of Air Serbia.
“The Etihad Aviation Group is all about driving innovation and efficiency, and as our equity investments mature, so too, will the benefits and synergies become more apparent. By developing our unique equity strategy over the past four years, we have created a compelling alliance of partners to share business and cost synergies that are driving benefits straight to the bottom line,” he adds.
“We have developed our global network significantly, and in doing so, shared massive cost synergies that demonstrate a commitment to work together to reach our goal. We invested time, effort, resource and manpower to initiate, drive and develop these relationships.
“The introduction of non-stop services between Belgrade and the Big Apple is a terrific achievement for Air Serbia that underlines its progress so far as well as the strength of its business strategy.
“On top of that, it 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,” Hogan concludes.