Belgrade Airport Closes Abruptly Leaving Serbia Without Air Traffic

Belgrade Nikola Tesla Airport was shut to all commercial traffic today, Telegraf reports. This was done with less than a few hours’ notice, meaning some aircraft were already in the air, en route to the airport when the news broke. So which airlines are affected?

Air Serbia A320 Belgrade Airport
With the closure of Belgrade Airport, Air Serbia is now effectively grounded. Photo: Getty Images

The airport is now closed

The Serbian government decided to shut Belgrade Nikola Tesla Airport at noon today. All commercial flights have been suspended, though only on a “temporary” basis. However, no expiry date has been given for the ban.

The purpose behind banning all airlines is to close a key international arrival point, as Serbia readies to close its borders. This is a similar case to Pristina Airport in Kosovo and its earlier closure.

Serbia has already shut Morava Airport in Kraljevo and Niš’ Constantine the Great Airport. With the closure of Belgrade Nikola Tesla Airport, there is now no more air traffic in the country.

Aircraft were still in the air

Despite the ban reportedly coming into force at midday, numerous flights still operated to and from Belgrade Nikola Tesla Airport in the afternoon.

For example, the last commercial flight didn’t actually take place until 5pm local time. This was an Air Serbia Airbus A319 incoming from London Heathrow.

This aircraft had left Belgrade for London earlier in the day, just after 10am. Now, the next Air Serbia flight between London and Belgrade is not scheduled until Monday 13 April. Wizz Air, which flies between London Luton and Belgrade, also suspended flights until that date.

Air Serbia
Air Serbia is a state-owned national airline. Photo: Getty Images

There were other commercial flights that operated at Belgrade today after the midday cutoff.

  • A Lufthansa Bombardier CRJ-900LR took off for Munich just before 13:30, having arrived just after midday.
  • An Aeroflot A320 departed as planned at 12:45 for Moscow, having arrived to Belgrade from Russia some 20 minutes before midday.
  • An Etihad A320 took off for Abu Dhabi after 12:30, with a delay. The aircraft was meant to depart Serbia for the UAE at 23:55.
  • An Air France A319 departed Belgrade for Paris at 14:30.
  • An easyJet A320 took off for Berlin Tegel Airport shortly after 14:00.
  • Finally, the last aircraft to depart Belgrade today was a Belavia Embraer E175LR

However, one more commercial flight is yet to return: Air Serbia’s Airbus A330 aircraft is still in New York, having only landed there five hours after Belgrade Airport closed. Presumably, the aircraft will return tomorrow.

Air Serbia Airbus A330 New York JFK
Air Serbia’s only wide-body aircraft is yet to return from New York JFK. Photo: Getty Images

Air Serbia completely grounded

Two Wizz Air Airbus aircraft that are based in Belgrade are now grounded and cannot operate any commercial flights. At the same time, Air Serbia’s entire fleet is grounded. The airline is now unable to operate any flights for almost a month, if not longer.

Luckily for Air Serbia, the Serbian government continues to provide financial assistance. It can do so because it is not bound by EU rules, as Serbia is not a member state.

For example, Air Serbia receives subsidies for the new routes it launched last year out of Morava Airport to Vienna, and Niš Constantine the Great Airport, to a variety of routes. At this time, there is no indication that these subsidies will be halted, even while subsidized Air Serbia flights are not actually operating.