Serbia Wants Regular Flights To China To Return

Serbia’s President has suggested to his Chinese counterpart that Air Serbia or a Chinese airline should launch direct flights between Belgrade and Beijing or Shanghai. In response, Xi Jinping offered his personal backing to the idea, adding that a direct air link would be of enormous importance for the two countries.

Air Serbia A330 take off YU-ARB
Air Serbia’s Nikola Tesla Airbus A330 may soon be a regular visitor in China. Photo: Vincenzo Pace – Simple Flying

Belgrade seeks flights to Shanghai or Beijing

The Office of the President of Serbia, Aleksandar Vučić, revealed in a press release that the Serbian President believes there is a need for either a Chinese airline or Air Serbia to launch flights between the Serbian capital, Belgrade, and China.

Mr. Vučić expressed this sentiment last week in a phone call with Xi Jinping, the Chinese President, explaining that direct air links between Serbia and China would bring the two nations together even more closely. It would also open up more opportunities for “economic and all other cooperation” between the two countries.

Beijing and Shanghai were the two destinations explicitly mentioned in the phone call as possible choices for the city that would be linked directly with the airport serving Serbia’s capital, Belgrade Nikola Tesla.

Hainan Airlines
Hainan Airlines served Belgrade from China with a stop in Prague between 2017 and 2018. Photo: Getty Images

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No flights between Serbia and China since 2018

Hainan Airlines used to fly to Belgrade from Beijing with a stopover in Prague. These flights were launched on 15th September 2017, but they were maintained for just one year. Before then, Belgrade was linked with China when it was still the capital of Yugoslavia over two decades ago.

Apart from the Hainan Airlines service, there has been no other scheduled passenger service between Belgrade and China this millennium, despite demand being very high: 151,637 passengers flew between the two countries in 2019, according to OAG data, with Shanghai capturing the most of these.

During the height of the COVID lockdowns in spring 2020, Air Serbia was highly busy operating cargo flights with its Airbus A330 aircraft to China to bring medical equipment to Serbia. In fact, the A330 was never as busy as it was in April 2020. Its utilization in a single week analyzed by Simple Flying last year was as follows:

  • 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
AirSERBIA (Serbia Creates Livery) Airbus A330-202 YU-ARA
Air Serbia’s Airbus A330 operated numerous cargo rotations to China in spring 2020. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

The phone call details

The exact wording of the statement suggested that it was Serbia’s President Vučić who floated the idea that an airline should establish direct flights between Serbia and China.

The Chinese President responded by offering his personal backing to the idea, adding that a direct air link would be of enormous importance for the two countries.

So, could this mean that we should be expecting direct flights between Belgrade and Beijing or Shanghai soon?

Do you think direct flights between Serbia and China will happen any time soon? Do you think COVID has made this more or less likely? Let us know what you think of this story in the comments below.