Hainan Airlines has commenced operations between Belgrade and Beijing via Prague, being the first direct service between the two capitals in 17 years. Furthermore, the airline becomes the first Chinese carrier to maintain service to Serbia in 25 years.
Flight HU7937 arrived in Belgrade around 09:00AM on the 15th of September 2017, where it was greeted by Ana Brnabić, the Serb Prime Minister, Li Manchang, the Chinese Ambassador to Serbia, Zorana Mihajlović, the Serbian Minister for Construction, Transport and Infrastructure, and Dane Kondić, the Air Serbia CEO.
Onboard of the inaugural flight to Belgrade, there were 234 passengers, which included some of the high-ranking representatives from the HNA Group – Hainan’s parent company and the Mayor of Beijing – Chen Jining, as well as a Chinese business delegation consisting of over twenty people.
Services between Beijing and Belgrade will run twice per week, each Monday and Friday, with the 292-seat Airbus A330-300 aircraft. Initially, flights will operate via Prague but are likely to be upgraded to nonstop operations from the 2018 summer season. Hainan has secured fifth freedom rights between Prague and Belgrade, allowing it to sell tickets on the sector.
“With these rights in place, Hainan Airlines can offer round trip services between Beijing and Prague, Beijing and Belgrade, as well as Prague and Belgrade. This is the only fifth freedom route that Hainan Airlines is currently operating. Currently we plan to run two flights per week. We will adjust these plans based on market demands. We will evaluate the possibilities whether to increase frequency or operate nonstop before the summer season,” representatives said to Ex-Yu Aviation News.
Around 90% of the bookings have been made by Chinese citizens, who can enjoy visa-free travel to Serbia. However Hainan is also targeting Serbian passengers, as well as the business sector.
“Both Chinese tourists and Serbian passengers are equally important to us, we expect that this new route could enhance the exchange of visits between the two peoples. We hope more Serbian customers will recognise us, and we’d like to see more and more Serbian travellers come to China,” said a Hainan Airlines spokesperson through a statement.
Hainan Airlines is considered to be one of China’s best carriers and has been ranked as one of the top ten best airlines in the world. Hainan’s Airbus A330-300s offer 32 seats in business class and a further 260 in economy on its flights between Beijing and Belgrade. Business class features a spacious cabin in a 1-2-1 seating layout with 180-degree adjustable lie-flat seats. The carrier is promoting its new service with an ongoing competition on its social media accounts.
Subsidiaries of HNA Group, Hainan’s owner, are currently bidding as part of a consortium for the 25-year concession of Belgrade Nikola Tesla Airport.
Featured image via Wikimedia Commons.