Inside Air Serbia’s Daily Airbus A330 Flights To China

Air Serbia’s lone Airbus A330-200 aircraft is busier than ever, thanks to the outbreak of Covid-19. Over the past week, the widebody was used daily for cargo flights to Shanghai, but also for a repatriation flight to Italy.

Air Serbia Airbus A330 New York JFK
Air Serbia’s A330-200 aircraft is transporting medical equipment from China to Serbia with daily flights from Belgrade to Shanghai. Photo: Getty Images

Air Serbia’s A330 is busier than ever

Commercial passenger flights with Air Serbia are currently on hold because Serbia has imposed a total travel ban into and out of the country. This includes the suspension of all services from Belgrade Nikola Tesla Airport, where Air Serbia is based.

However, this has had no effect on Air Serbia’s sole wide-body aircraft, the Airbus A330-200, registered as YU-ARA. In fact, the A330 has never been utilized as intensively as it is right now.

Last week, Air Serbia used the aircraft as follows, es extracted from

  • Monday 20th April: Belgrade-Shanghai
  • Tuesday 21st April: Shanghai-Belgrade, then Belgrade-Shanghai
  • Wednesday 22nd April: Shanghai-Belgrade
  • Thursday 23rd April: Belgrade-Shanghai
  • Friday 24th April: Shanghai-Belgrade, then Belgrade-Rome-Belgrade
  • Saturday 25th April: Belgrade-Shanghai
  • Sunday 26th April: Shanghai-Belgrade

The average flight time between Shanghai and Belgrade is 11.5 hours. This level of fleet utilization is unprecedented for Air Serbia’s A330.

Air Serbia Airbus A330
Air Serbia’s Airbus A330-200 usually flies to New York JFK, but not daily. Photo: Getty Images

The A330 is usually used for Air Serbia’s long-haul service from Belgrade to New York. Even at its busiest, during the month of August, it only operates six weekly rotations. The journey from New York to Belgrade is some three hours shorter than the flight from Shanghai to Belgrade.

Inside the flights

The Airbus A330 is a passenger aircraft. So, like many of its European competitors, Air Serbia is transporting cargo not only in the aircraft’s cargo hold but also in the passenger cabins, in the aisles and on the seats. A full gallery of images showing cargo loaded onto Air Serbia’s A330 can be found here.

Almost all of the flights that Air Serbia has operated to Shanghai and Guangzhou in China were exclusively cargo flights. However, one of the first flights, more than a month ago, also carried a team of Chinese experts to Serbia to help the country deal with the outbreak of Covid-19. Photos from that flight were posted in a Tweet by People’s Daily, China’s largest newspaper.

National newspapers in Serbia are reporting on these Air Serbia flights with much enthusiasm, and Serbian politicians are hailing them as a sign of strong diplomatic ties between the two countries.

Thus, it would not come as a surprise if Air Serbia launched scheduled passenger services from Belgrade to Shanghai in the future. For the past two years, there have been rumors that this is being planned. The Serbian airline is building a regional feeder network ahead of potential long-haul expansion. YU-ARA might not be just a temporary visitor in Shanghai after all.

Do you think Air Serbia will be starting regular passenger services to China as a result of strengthening relations between the two countries? Let us know what you think in the comments below.