Air Serbia blames Belgrade Airport for cancellations and delays

Air Serbia has blamed Belgrade Nikola Tesla Airport and its operator for the flight cancellations and delays the carrier has been experiencing over the past few weeks. In a scathing press release over the weekend the airline said the airport was understaffed, its staff undertrained and its infrastructure and technology problematic, noting the situation is “out of control”. Last Friday, the Serbian Ministry for Construction, Transport and Infrastructure met with Belgrade Airport’s management, also expressing its dissatisfaction with the concessionaire. The development is in stark contrast to just three weeks ago when Serbia’s President, Aleksandar Vučić, said the airport and Air Serbia had an excellent relationship and that airport operator VINCI had full understanding for Air Serbia’s needs.
The Serbian national carrier noted, “There are a whole range of problems that Air Serbia has been facing at Belgrade Airport on a daily basis for weeks, that is only getting worse by the day, all of which has a very serious consequence on punctuality. In recent days, the situation at the airport has gotten more and more out of control. This is not only in reference to the cancellations and delays on June 22 caused by the failure of an X-ray device at baggage control, which was just one incident. Problems with the functioning of other airport services is a much greater issue and is of a chronic nature. Passenger handling is extremely slow. Check-in agents are undertrained, and the check-in process takes much longer than it should. The baggage belt often breaks down, causing queues at check-in desks. As a result, flights are closing late and being delayed. Passengers are rightfully angry. Baggage drop-off counters are often out of service as well”.
The airline went on to say, “Loading baggage into the aircraft is often late and there is not enough staff. In the evening hours, there is a lack of employees in all support services. There are problems even for arriving flights, where passengers often must wait longer to collect their luggage than their actual flight time because there is a lack of staff in the baggage sorting facility. When it comes to lost luggage, it accumulates at high speed and passengers are unable to get feedback on the status of their luggage, as employees do not even manage to list it, let alone send it to passengers”. Air Serbia said it had regular meetings with the airport’s management and informed them of their planned network and volume of flights for the summer in advance. “Although the lack of staff in key positions was identified as one of the biggest risks as early as six months ago in a document dealing with the level of preparedness for the summer season, it is obvious that the problem has not been solved in the meantime”, Air Serbia said. Belgrade Airport has not responded to the accusations.

In 2017, in a bid to cut costs, Air Serbia halted operations of its Air Serbia Ground Handling Services (ASGS) company, which provided passenger service, supervision, station management, training, freight forwarding and customs clearance at Belgrade Airport. It outsourced these duties to Belgrade Airport instead. Similarly, it halted operations of its catering division and is now experiencing issues with its outsourced catering provider. Last week, the Serbian carrier said it had been forced to optimise and reorganise its scheduled due to the late arrival of leased aircraft, the prolonged maintenance of its jets and supply chain issues.

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