Air Serbia Plans US Expansion With Chicago Route

The airline plans to open a second route to the US from next April, targeting the large Serbian diaspora in the Chicago area.

Credit: Joe Pries

Air Serbia will increase its footprint in the US market over the coming months with additional flights to New York and the launch of a new route to Chicago.

The airline, which began serving New York John F Kennedy (JFK) from Belgrade (BEG) in June 2016, intends to expand the service to three round trips per week during the winter 2022/23 season, up from the previously planned two. Flights will take place on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays.

The carrier has also announced that Chicago O’Hare (ORD) will become its second destination in the US from April 2023. Flights are not yet on sale, but Air Serbia plans to operate two nonstop services per week from Belgrade.

“The addition of another weekly flight to New York during the winter season is a clear indicator that our flight over the Atlantic is working out well and that it represents one of Air Serbia’s strongest routes,” said Boško Rupić, general manager commercial and strategy at Air Serbia.

“In addition to that, we have been planning the introduction of direct flights between Belgrade and Chicago, a city with one of the biggest diaspora from Serbia and other countries in the region, for a long time now, and for us, it is a route of exceptional strategic importance.”

Belgrade and Chicago were last connected by nonstop flights 32 years ago. Air Serbia will be seeking to attract VFR traffic on the route, given that Chicago has a large community of people with Serbian ancestry in the area.

According to estimates, there are about 350,000 residents of Serbian origin in the Chicago vicinity, as well as inhabitants hailing from other countries of the former Yugoslavia and neighbouring Balkan states.

Figures provided by Sabre Market Intelligence show that the Serbia-US market attracted 239,000 two-way O&D passengers during 2019—almost 85% of whom traveled indirectly. Belgrade-New York was the largest city pair, accounting for about 61,400 two-way passengers, while Belgrade-Chicago was the second biggest market with 38,000 two-way passengers.

Air Serbia currently serves JFK six times per week using an Airbus A330-200 aircraft. It is understood the airline plans to lease a second A330-200 to use for the Chicago route, as well as launching flights to Tianjin (TSN) in northern China.

Speaking earlier this month, Serbia’s president Aleksandar Vučić said Air Serbia would start flying to TSN in September or October. He made the comment after Hainan Airlines resumed flights to Belgrade.

Hainan will operate a weekly service to Serbia’s capital, flying nonstop from Beijing Capital (PEK). The return leg will operate via Dalian (DLC).