Hainan Airlines has been granted a permit by Serbian authorities to commence twice-weekly service between Beijing and Belgrade via Prague, starting September 15th. Flights will be operated on Tuesdays and Fridays. The flight will be operated as an extension of the current flight from Prague, meaning that on Tuesdays and Fridays, flights will continue from Prague to Belgrade, while on other days, flights between Beijing and Prague will not continue to Belgrade.
The Chinese carrier also requested and received fifth freedom rights between Prague and Belgrade, meaning that passengers will be able to buy tickets for any sector of the flight. The carrier has started selling tickets to Belgrade, with return economy class fares starting from 550 euros. The route will be operated on Hainan Airlines’s Airbus A330-300, equipped with 32 business and 260 economy seats.
Initial discussions over a possible air link between China and Serbia began in late 2013, when the then General Manager of Belgrade Airport, Velimir Radosavljević, told China Radio International there was a possibility for the Serbian capital to be linked with Beijing through Air China. In 2014, the two countries signed an Agreement for the Establishment of Air Traffic. Since then, negotiations have been underway with multiple airlines to start service to Belgrade, with Hainan Airlines eventually applying for service earlier this year.
The last time a Chinese airline operated flights to Belgrade was prior to the collapse of the former Yugoslavia. Services were initially launched from Beijing in 1972 by Air China’s predecessor CAAC and were operated with an Ilyushin Il-62 via Karachi and Bucharest. Later on, the flights were operated by Boeing 707 aircraft and later by Boeing 767s. JAT, the former Yugoslavian, and later Serbian flag carrier operated flights to Beijing from 1978 to 1983, as well as throughout the early 2000s, however, flights stopped in 2005 after the sale of the JAT’s long-haul fleet.
Featured photo via Wikimedia Commons.