IN months since its strategic partnership with UAE’s flag carrier Etihad Airways, Air Serbia has employed more than 300 people in roles across the business; initiated employment opportunities for ten graduates and 16 cadet pilots; started operating a new call centre for the Etihad Aviation Group; introduced new livery, new uniforms and a more modern fleet of A319 and A320 aircraft; confirmed ten A320neo aircraft for the fleet between 2018 and 2020; and planned growth from 29 destinations end 2013, to 38 destinations by end 2014.
Air Serbia, the national airline of Serbia, was rebranded from Jat Airways in October 2013, when Etihad Airways acquired 49 per cent of its shares. Chief executive officer of Air Serbia, Dane Kondić, said that he was very pleased with the progress made in establishing Air Serbia as the leading airline in the region.
“In a very short time we have reconnected the Balkan region, introduced new fleet in the striking Air Serbia livery, raised the standards of our on-board dining, and created new and challenging roles for Serbian nationals.
“These initiatives, combined with strong ethos of customer service, have fundamentally changed the way we operate. Air Serbia exists to provide a remarkable service to our guests and that we will never forget,” Kondic said.
With a focus on comfort, Air Serbia leased eight modern Airbus A319 and two Airbus A320 aircraft to replace the ageing fleet of Boeing 737 aircraft. “The Airbus A319 and A320 aircraft have been completely refurbished and reconfigured into a two-class cabin and have been extremely well received by our guests,” he said.
In November Air Serbia announced that, in a deal valued at more than $1 billion at list prices, ten next-generation A320neo aircraft were confirmed for its fleet between 2018 and 2020.
“These Airbus A320neo aircraft are best-in-class and key to Air Serbia’s strategy to continually lift its standards of service and comfort,” Kondić said.
“Our on-board service has been completely overhauled and is complemented by a contemporary new uniform. Perhaps the most dramatic change in our on-board service has been in our food and beverage service.
“We now serve convenient, fresh and tasty meals and snacks in the Economy Class and Business Class cabins. The meals we serve in Business Class are designed by our chefs for Air Serbia, made using Serbian ingredients where possible,” Kondić said.
The changes are not restricted to the fleet. Kondic said Air Serbia was reconnecting the Balkan region and that over the past five months the network had grown rapidly to include close neighbours of Ljubljana, Sarajevo, Banja Luka, Bucharest, Podgorica, Tivat, Skopje, Budapest, and Sofia.
“Some of these cities have not had the benefit of an air link for more than two decades and I am very proud that we have brought our neighbours together. This is an important part of the value we can deliver.
“Air Serbia’s network, serviced by its own fleet, will grow from 29 destinations at the end of 2013 to 38 destinations by the end of this year. From June Air Serbia will fly to Varna, Beirut and Warsaw.
“What’s just as pleasing and exciting for our guests, is that Air Serbia’s access to a global network has been enhanced.”
Air Serbia provides connections to many destinations worldwide in cooperation with its 10 code-share partners. Cooperation with strategic partner Etihad Airways provides excellent connections via Abu Dhabi to Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth in Australia, Seychelles and Kuwait. Also, Etihad Airways provides beyond connections to the Middle and Far East, India and Africa.
According to a study by Oxford Economics, Air Serbia is also making a significant contribution to the Serbian economy.
The combined direct, indirect and induced economic contribution to the Serbian economy is expected to be more than $700 million in 2014. This means Air Serbia will contribute around 1.5 per cent of Serbia’s gross domestic product.
Air Serbia is creating a significant number of new jobs for Serbian nationals and in the past five months Air Serbia has employed more than 300 people in roles across the business.
More than 150 cabin crew team members, more than 40 pilots, over 90 check-in staff and 28 call centre agents have taken up positions. A total of 36 permanent new positions have been created within Air Serbia’s line maintenance function.
Starting in October 2014, Etihad Airways is accepting 10 pilots as direct hires for an option of three years.
Air Serbia has also focused on building the capabilities of young people entering the workforce. The graduate manager development programme is a key initiative which involves 10 Serb business graduates who have relocated to Abu Dhabi for two years in order to gain experience in all aspects of the aviation business.
In addition, Air Serbia has selected 16 cadet pilots for the cadet pilot programme, which last ran in 1989, and it has recruited 10 graduate engineers for a two-year contract period.
The call centre will support calls and bookings for members of the Etihad Aviation Group. The call centre is located at Air Serbia’s Head Office in Belgrade.
Minister for regional development in charge of the ministry of economy, Republic of Serbia, Igor Mirović, said: “The Government of Serbia is focused on driving economic growth, and boosting the employment opportunities for Serbian nationals is one of the key objectives.
“We celebrate Air Serbia’s achievements in creating jobs by recruiting pilots, cabin crew and ground services personnel over the past five months,” he said.
“Every new job makes a difference to an individual, to a family and to the economy of Serbia. As Air Serbia becomes stronger and more successful, so too does Serbia.”
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