Etihad Airways has suspended ticket sales to Belgrade Nikola Tesla Airport until the end of November, as a result of demand for both point-to-point and transfer passengers collapsing this year. The last flight on the route will operate this Wednesday, 14th October, after which there will be (at least) six full weeks of no flights at all.
Ticket sales halted
Etihad Airways’ booking engine is showing that the last flight to operate between Belgrade Nikola Tesla Airport (BEG) and Abu Dhabi International Airport (AUH) will be in two days’ time, on Wednesday 14th October. The next flight is not on sale until Wednesday 25th November.
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Up until this Wednesday, Etihad had been flying to Belgrade twice weekly ever since it resumed flights on the route in July. It has always operated the route with its Airbus A320 aircraft.
From ticket sales, it looks like Etihad plans to resume this route as a two-weekly service again when the next flight takes off on Wednesday 25th November. However, flights are then on sale daily again from 1 December onwards. This timetable is likely to be revised further.
Why is Etihad pulling out of Belgrade?
When Etihad and Air Serbia first launched their partnership seven years ago, there were multiple daily connections between Belgrade and Abu Dhabi. Air Serbia and Etihad used to codeshare on each other’s services to offer high-frequency connections, to enable passengers to reach far-away places like Australia from Serbia easily and flexibly.
There is a sizeable Balkan diaspora in Australia, which could reach Belgrade with a single stop in Abu Dhabi, or all of the Balkans with two stops: one in Abu Dhabi, and one in Belgrade. Air Serbia’s extensive regional network was an excellent source of passenger feed for the Belgrade-Abu Dhabi route, which both it and Etihad had operated.
Now, with Australia closed for inbound and outbound travel, with Air Serbia’s route network decreased significantly to cater for a slump in demand, and with Abu Dhabi still closed for non-residents, there evidently isn’t enough commercial viability in Etihad maintaining this route. Especially in November.
Air Serbia is still a successful Etihad partner
Unlike the likes of Air Berlin and Alitalia, Air Serbia was a successful Etihad Airways partner airline for years. That almost changed this year, when the Serbian national airline notified Etihad Airways Partners that it could not pay back its debt, to which Etihad Airways Partners responded by rejecting the offer of debt restructuring and instead requesting the full payment back by the due date.
Air Serbia has been hit hard by COVID-19, but it is nevertheless making the best of the situation. For example, as a result of it being exempt from Donald Trump’s European arrivals ban, it has been able to increase the frequencies on its flagship Belgrade-New York JFK route this October.
Do you think Etihad Airways will resume flying on this route? Let us know what you think about this story in the comments below.