China-Serbia non-stop flights resume after 22 years
Hainan Airlines today launched operations between Beijing and Belgrade, marking the resumption of scheduled nonstop flights between the two cities after 22 years. The carrier’s 292-seat Airbus A330-300, comprising 32 business class seats and the remaining 260 in economy class, landed at Nikola Tesla Airport at 08:20 this morning. Due to strict Covid-19 restrictions in China, as well as a cap on the number of passengers, flights are currently limited to one per week, but will increase to two per week from September or October. The plane was greeted in the Serbian capital with a water cannon salute, along with the country’s President Aleksandar Vučić, Chinese Ambassador to Serbia Chen Bo, Air Serbia CEO Jiri Marek, director general of Belgrade airport, François Berisot, and government ministers.
Commenting on the service launch, Ms. Chen said, “It was an honor to fly on the first nonstop service from Beijing to Belgrade. These flights will further consolidate Belgrade’s position as a regional hub. I especially want to thank Air Serbia for their help. for the launch of these services and I can’t wait to see them in China as well”.
The return service is due to leave at 3:00 p.m. this afternoon. Due to Covid-19 restrictions, the point of entry into China will be Dalian, after which passengers will continue to Beijing. “Belgrade is one of the first international destinations to be restored by Hainan Airlines due to high demand. The route will build a bridge to facilitate people-to-people exchanges and promote business between Chinese and Serbian companies, which can now seek even more opportunities under the Belt and Road Cooperation Framework. The flights are scheduled to connect more than forty domestic destinations in cooperation with Hainan Group airlines,” the vice-president said. company president, Cheng Ming, at the road launch in Beijing. Today’s service marks the return of Hainan Airlines to Serbia after four years. The carrier began operations from Beijing to Belgrade via Prague in September 2017, with the airline holding fifth freedom rights to the Prague – Belgrade – Prague sectors, allowing it to also sell tickets between the two European cities. However, the flights were halted at the end of 2018. Hainan Airlines’ second attempt to serve Belgrade comes months before Air Serbia inaugurates its own operations to China, which were announced for October.
Mainland China’s international capacity is currently down 95% from 2019 levels, but the country’s civil aviation administration is taking steps to restart more overseas flights. Analysis of OAG data shows that there are currently 42 airport pairs receiving nonstop flights between mainland China and Europe. The total weekly round-trip seat capacity is 19,126. This compares to 142 airport pairs and 447,761 weekly seats during the same period in 2019. China has become one of the main unserved markets to and from Belgrade since visa restrictions between the two countries were mutually lifted in 2017, with travel hitting an all-time high. in 2019, before the coronavirus pandemic. Most traffic between China and Serbia in recent years has come from Shanghai, followed by Beijing, Guangzhou, Hangzhou and Chengdu.
|Flight HU7969 before departure at Beijing Airport|
Flights between Beijing and Belgrade were first introduced in August 1972 by Air China’s predecessor, CAAC, with the Beijing – Karachi – Belgrade – Bucharest route, using the Ilyushin Il-62 aircraft. Over the years, the stop has changed from the Pakistani city to cities like Urumchi and Tehran. Also, the last point of the route changed from Bucharest to Paris Orly, then to Zurich. In 1978 the equipment was upgraded to the Boeing 707 and in 1989 to the Boeing 767.
On the other hand, JAT Yugoslavia Airlines operated its first service to Beijing via Karachi in December 1971 under the charter brand Air Yugoslavia with its Boeing 707, while scheduled services were introduced on April 30, 1979, under the name of flight JU610. The airline then changed the route to the Chinese capital via Calcutta and started using its DC10 aircraft. Following the disintegration of Yugoslavia, JAT Yugoslavia Airlines reestablished operations to Beijing on 18 December 1997. The route would be maintained until October 2000 with a hiatus during the 1999 NATO bombing of Yugoslavia. In September 2000 , JAT has finalized an agreement with Air China. , allowing passengers to and from Australia to transit through Beijing with a three-hour layover in the Chinese capital.