Summer 2011 on Final Approach (Part 3)


The third part of the ‘Summer 2011 on Final Approach’ will look at the success of the oneworld airline alliance in Belgrade.



In December 2009 it seemed as if oneworld’s luck in was about to change. The Hungarian national carrier Malév had announced that they were returning to Belgrade after two decades of absence.

On the 14th of December 2009, Malév’s aircraft (Boeing B737-700) landed in Belgrade for the first time since the discontinuation of the service in 1992.

In order to promote the new route the airline had launched a new campaign where people could purchase tickets for only 1 Euro.By the time the airline launched the flights it had a total of 2.000 bookings for December alone, giving it an outstanding loadfactor of 70%.

With the campaign in place, the winter season of 2009 saw Malév operate a wide range of aircraft between the two cities, ranging from Dash-8 to Boeing B737-800.

True success in Serbia would only be shown during the following summer season, that is after the promotion had passed.

During the summer season in 2009, the airline recorded lower passengers numbers. Still, the route was still considered a success.

True blow to oneworld in Serbia came in late 2010 when British Airways announced its withdrawal from Belgrade. The airline was unable to cope with growing competition from both Wizz Air and Jat. Its presence in Belgrade has been reduced to a simple codeshare with Malév via Budapest.

After the initial success during the previous winter season, Malév started to face its own difficulties. They tried to keep the daily frequency by reducing capacity on the rout by replacing their Dash-8 (72 seats) with E120 Brasilia (30 seats). Eventually the airline was forced to downgrade Belgrade to 6 flights per week.

However, the airline is planning daily frequencies for the upcoming summer season hoping to reverse the current trend.

On the other hand, one can wonder if British Airways will be reintroducing flights to Belgrade this summer. There are numerous obstacles which might reduce the chances of their return. Most importantly Serbian citizens still need a visa to both enter and transit in the UK. Jat Airways and Wizz Air have added additional flights this summer in order to fill the void left by British Airways.

Passengers loyal to the oneworld airline alliance will have to travel on Malév this summer season. It would be surprising that any other member of the oneworld alliance would enter the Serbian market at this point.

However, no matter how unlikely it is that any other member of the alliance would place Belgrade on their route map, only Finnair and Iberia could possibly find interest in the Serbian market.

It’s worth mentioning that in case either airline decides to launch Belgrade, a large sum of money would be needed until the route would start making profit. The fact that Serbian market today is not a large one, or that it is far from a high yielding one might make it less interesting to these two airlines.

To make the return of Iberia even less likely, Spanair had been operating flights from Barcelona for almost a year now. During the last summer season, in addition to Barcelona the airline flew twice per week from Madrid to Belgrade.

This summer the airline is planning on keeping three weekly flights from Barcelona, whereas nothing was mentioned regarding the flights from Madrid.

On the other hand, Finnair would probably record enormous losses in Belgrade. This is mostly due to the large number of airlines flying to the two markets relevant to Finnair, northern Europe and Asia. Northern Europe is very well covered by airBaltic via Riga in addition to Jat Airways, Cimber Sterling, Wizz Air and Norwegian operating flights to numerous cities in that specific region.

On the other hand Asia is very well connected by Aeroflot via Moscow and Turkish Airlines via Istanbul. Aerosvit, a newcomer, is trying to steal some of the Serbia-Asia market and re-route it via Kiev.

My personal opinion is that oneworld’s presence in the Balkans (excluding Istanbul and Athens) is very much dependent on Malév and their vast coverage of the region.

As for Serbia, the only oneworld airline that could return to Belgrade is British Airways from London Heathrow.


However for the time being oneworld will continue to route its passengers via Budapest to the world.






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