The lifting of the European Union's ban on trade with Yugoslavia on 9 October, after the ousting of Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic four days earlier, signals a new start for the country's national airline.

The carrier started operating to EU countries from 26 March this year after services were suspended from September 1998 as a result of Serbia's actions in Kosovo. The lifting of the ban means it will once again have "certainty and stability in the conduct of its operations," said director-general, Mihailo Vujnovic, who was appointed to lead the airline in June after former president Zika Petrovic was murdered in April.

JAT hopes that the EU decision will be followed by countries such as the USA and Australia. Its management is planning to expand its network, including the resumption of flights to the USA and Canada. At its peak in the late 1980s, JAT was carrying 4.5 million passengers, but expects around 1.5 million this year.

Apart from traffic development, JAT's priorities are to modernize its fleet, which includes Boeing 737-300s, 727-200s, McDonnell Douglas DC-9-30s and a McDonnell Douglas DC-10, and to introduce a new reservations system. It has ordered eight Airbus A319s for possible delivery next year.

The lifting of sanctions will enable normal international financial operations to resume, and stabilize its purchasing of spare parts, other equipment and fuel, said JAT. It will also begin a recruitment drive, especially for IT specialists.

Source: Airline Business