YU's JAT eyes EU slots after air ban goes

BELGRADE, Mar 22, 2000 -- (Reuters) Yugoslavian flag carrier Jugoslovenski Aerotransport (JAT) said on Tuesday its first flights in the European Union would be to Germany after the 15-nation bloc suspended an air ban.

"A day after the EU decision on suspending the flight ban is published in their Official Journal, JAT will resume flights to Duesseldorf," the head of JAT, Zika Petrovic, told reporters.

EU foreign ministers decided on Monday to lift a ban on air links with Yugoslavia but the bloc also agreed to tighten financial sanctions to increase pressure on President Slobodan Milosevic.

EU decisions are usually published in its Official Journal within days of being made.

The Yugoslav airline will also soon start flights to France, Italy and the Netherlands, Petrovic said.

Initially, JAT will fly three times a week to Paris, Vienna, Amsterdam, Frankfurt and London and twice a week to Berlin, Duesseldorf, Milan, Copenhagen, Stockholm-Goeteborg and Athens-Thessaloniki.

The first foreign carrier due to land in Belgrade on Wednesday at 1045 GMT is the Greek carrier Olympic Airways. It will be followed by Swissair, scheduled to arrive at 1310 GMT, the head of Belgrade's international airport, Ljubomir Acimovic, said.

British Airways and Alitalia are expected to resume services to Belgrade in early April, he added.

JAT's Petrovic said the airline had suffered losses of $300 million due to the flight ban imposed in September 1998 and after the NATO defence alliance's air campaign last year grounded flights for several months.

The ban on its flights to EU destinations saw the airline register losses of $60 million while turnover sank to $70 million during the ban, way below the $215 million turnover forecast, Petrovic said.

Original article