Earlier this week Lufthansa was part of a historic agreement between Serbia and Belgrade to re-establish flights between Kosovo and Belgrade. Now, details have emerged that Eurowings will begin operating the route this summer – and there is a codeshare agreement involved.
The letters of intent
The letters of intent signed in the US Embassy in Berlin on Monday formed an agreement by Serbia and Kosovo to remove all barriers currently preventing any airline from launching flights between Pristina and Belgrade.
Together with representatives of Serbia and Kosovo, the letters were signed by the Managing Director of Eurowings Michael Knitter and the US Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell.
From the start, it was clear that Eurowings would be the airline to operate the first flights between Kosovo and Serbia in over 20 years. But it was not known that flights will be launching as soon as summer 2020, as reported by Ex-Yu Aviation News.
The development will have support “from all sides”, and presumably this will include financial backing. Political support was already given by both Serbia and Kosovo when the agreement was signed in Berlin on Monday.
Why did airlines not fly between Kosovo and Serbia before?
Within a week of Serbia and Kosovo signing the agreement, news emerged that Eurowings will launch flights in 2020.
This is extraordinarily quick development. For the past two decades, a whole range of obstacles prevented airlines from flying between Pristina and Belgrade.
The main obstacle was always political. Kosovo declared independence from Serbia, but Serbia still does not recognize it as a separate entity. Instead, Serbia calls Kosovo an autonomous province.
This meant that there was no agreement regarding which passports passengers coming to Serbia from Pristina should present. This meant that air traffic oversight was contended as well. Also, Kosovo and Serbia couldn’t agree which aviation taxes to impose on the service.
All of these issues have now been resolved, in what is an incredibly short amount of time. Presumably, this is due to backing from the US, and the willingness of an independent airline, Eurowings of Lufthansa Group, to begin flights.
What has been agreed for Eurowings to fly?
The Civil Aviation Authority in Kosovo and Pristina Airport agreed not to impose any additional taxes, fees and charges for the return flight from Pristina to Belgrade.
To resolve the issue of passports, point to point passengers will not have to carry a passport with them. Instead, they will use their identity cards issued by Kosovo or by Serbia, depending on where their journey originates.
Meanwhile, airspace issues have been resolved as well. The aircraft flying between Pristina and Belgrade will be able to do so in a straight line. All other airlines flying into Pristina arriving from Europe from the North still have to fly in a circle into Kosovo through Macedonia.
Flight connections and codeshare agreements
As part of the new agreement, Eurowings has been given full freedom to select its codeshare partners on this route between Pristina and Belgrade.
Belgrade Nikola Tesla Airport will receive this as great news, as it will help its ambitions to become a transport hub. Kosovo does not have nearly as many flight connections as Belgrade does.
And this is where the most interesting part of the new agreement details is: the flight connections resulting from potential codeshare arrangements. The agreement allows connecting passengers from Kosovo who transfer in Belgrade Nikola Tesla Airport to use their Kosovo passports to do so.
This is a major breakthrough, and likely the single most important benefit for the air passengers of Kosovo. For example, Eurowings could now sign a codeshare with Air Serbia, so that its Pristina-Belgrade service connects onto Air Serbia’s Belgrade network.
This will mean that passengers arriving from Pristina will no longer have to fly via Vienna, Istanbul or Frankfurt to transfer to a whole range of destinations in Europe, but also Asia, North America and Africa.