Etihad Drops Belgrade Flights, Despite Controlling Air Serbia

Etihad owns a 49% stake in Air Serbia, and the Serbian government owns the other 51%. This was one of the better airline investments previous Etihad management made in its effort to acquire stakes in airlines and redirect their traffic through its hub in Abu Dhabi.

The UAE-based airline purchased stakes in troubled carriers like air berlin, Virgin Australia, Jet Airways, Alitalia and Air Seychelles. This was the source of billions of dollars in losses annually. Investing in a better product and better branding was insufficient to make each carrier profitable.

Current management has scaled back the vision for Etihad, and that’s meant being unwilling to dump additional dollars into partner airlines. The government of Serbia sought money from Etihad to cover Covid-19 pandemic losses, but was rebuffed. So Serbia has threatened to recapitalize the airline and dilute Etihad’s ownership stake.

Etihad has terminated flights from its Abu Dhabi hub to Belgrade, and will reportedly end its codesharing with the carrier it half owns next year. Surely then we can expect the dilution or other resolution of the Etihad stake in Air Serbia.

I used to remember flying out of Abu Dhabi in winter and seeing all the bundled up sad faces being bused to air stairs and climbing up to their Air Serbia flights to Belgrade. It’s a great city and their winters can be surprisingly mild, but certainly colder than the Gulf region. It’s a great place for party boats on the Danube over the summer and night clubs, and inexpensive by U.S. and Western European standards.

While this all could mean an eventual end to redeeming Etihad Guest miles (a transfer partner of Citi, American Express, and Capital One) for travel on Air Serbia, the Belgrade-based carrier is a new partner of Air Canada’s Aeroplan (an American Express transfer partner) allowing the combining of various Star Alliance flights with Air Serbia flights into a single award itinerary.

When its full network is running Air Serbia can be used to connect to Athens and Thessalonika; Beirut and Tel Aviv; Bucharest, Sofia and Warsaw; Kiev and several destinations in Russia; several destinations in Croatia plus Cyprus and Malta – or visit Serbia itself. Sit out at a cafe on Ada Ciganlija, visit the Belgrade Fortress and Saint Petka’s Chapel, and walk Knez Mihailova.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. @Andy: you’re right 🙂
    @Gary: you forget to mention Skadarlija Bohemian quorter, new clubs area in Cetinjska street and also Zemun! 🙂

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