Air Serbia plans to introduce additional destinations in China once strict Covid-19 measures and restrictions are lifted, with the option for the carrier to add its third widebody aircraft as these limitations are eased. The airline plans to enter the Chinese market in October with a weekly service to Tianjin, which is also limited in frequency by pandemic measures. “We have much bigger plans once the Covid restrictions are lifted in China. We want to fly to Beijing and Shanghai in the future. These destinations are so far restricted by Covid regulations,” the CEO said. ‘Air Serbia, Jiri Marek, at “Aviation Week”. Hainan Airlines introduced weekly service from the Chinese capital to Belgrade last month, which is expected to increase to twice a week from September or October, Covid circumstances permitting. Due to strict regulations, Hainan Airlines must make a stopover in Dalian on incoming service, before proceeding to Beijing.
Tianjin will become Air Serbia’s first destination in China as the country is unlikely to lift its travel rules and restrictions by October. Pursuing a zero Covid strategy, China is currently limiting frequencies, destinations and capping cabin occupancy on flights as part of its measures to combat the virus. However, Marek noted that Tianjin may remain in the network in the future. “The market is quite volatile and dynamic, you have to be flexible,” the CEO said. The port city of Tianjin, which is Beijing’s main maritime gateway, has a population of 13.9 million. It is the fourth most populous city in China and the twentieth in the world. It is also one of the largest shopping malls in China and is connected by a thirty-minute train ride to the country’s capital.
The current geopolitical situation could benefit Air Serbia on its flights to China, as it is one of the few European carriers that is not restricted to flying over the vast Russian airspace. Many traffic flows between China and Europe are currently restricted, Marek said, and some routes remain complicated with closed airspace over some countries heading to Asia. “Belgrade’s geographical position opens up new opportunities and route alternatives to Asia. Air Serbia is ready to explore them,” Mr. Marek added. In the pre-pandemic period of 2019, China was the largest long-haul market after Serbia based on OAG data, narrowly surpassing the United States, followed by Canada. Shanghai and Beijing were the two busiest unserved routes from Belgrade Airport in 2019.