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Air Serbia demands return to Ataturk

Air Serbia and Turkish Airlines locked in talks as agreement deadline looms

Air Serbia has demanded to be issued suitable arrival and departure slots at Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport in talks held with Turkish Airlines this week. In return, the Serbian Civil Aviation Directorate will issue Turkish companies, amongst which is Turkish Airlines, permits to operate summer charters to Belgrade this coming season.

This winter Air Serbia was forced to relocate from Istanbul’s main airport Ataturk to Sabiha Gokcen after authorities at Ataturk Airport, in collaboration with Turkish Airlines, offered Air Serbia landing and departure slots in the middle of the night. Talks between Air Serbia and Turkish Airlines have to be concluded by next Friday with Air Serbia also pushing for the two sides to end the disparity and operate an equal amount of flights between the two countries in accordance to the bilateral air agreement between Serbia and Turkey.

Currently, Turkish Airlines operates more than double the amount of flights between Istanbul and Belgrade compared to Air Serbia.

Three Turkish carriers have applied to operate 194 charter flights to Belgrade and Niš this summer. Since they are yet to be issued permits, the majority of tour operators have decided to use Air Serbia as their means of transport. “It is much easier for tour operators to work with a local company. Anyway, they invested in a new fleet, why should we assist the economy of another country”, Serbia’s National Association of Travel Agencies, YUTA, said in a statement. Air Serbia has put aside four Boeing 737-300s for charters this summer.

Turkish Airlines dominates the market between Turkey and Serbia. This winter season the Turkish carrier offers seventeen weekly flights between Istanbul and Belgrade and is the only airline operating out of Ataturk Airport to Serbia, allowing it to capture a large share of transit passengers as well. On the other hand, Air Serbia offers daily flights to Sabiha Gokcen Airport while low cost airline Pegasus runs four weekly flights to Belgrade from the same airport.

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