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BELGRADE (Serbia), August 13 (SeeNews) - National flag carrier Air Serbia will likely lease an Airbus A330 for its planned trans-Atlantic flights to New York, Serbian prime minister Aleksandar Vucic said on Thursday.
In 2013, Etihad Airways signed a strategic partnership deal to acquire 49% of then state-owned JAT Airways while getting a five-year management contract for the airline and rebranding it to Air Serbia in October of the same year. The remaining 51% of the carrier are held by the Serbian government.
The leased aircraft will cost $500,000 (450,000 euro) per month, Vucic said in a statement issued after he toured the Belgrade airport, the Serbian carrier's home base.
In June, Serbia signed an air traffic agreement with the US, which will enable direct trans-Atlantic flights between the two countries.
The first direct flights between the two countries are expected by the end of this year, or in early 2016, depending on national flag carrier Air Serbia, the Balkan country's transport ministry said at the time, adding that the first US destination that Air Serbia plans to service is New York.
In June 2014, the US Department of Transportation's Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said that Serbia complies with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) safety standards and has been granted a Category 1 rating.
A Category 1 rating means the country's civil aviation authority complies with ICAO standards and that Serbia's air carriers which are able to secure the requisite FAA and Department of Transportation authority, can establish service to the US and carry the code of US carriers.
Serbia currently has no carriers providing direct service to the US. Direct air services between the two countries were halted 23 years ago.
A total of 2.3 million passengers travelled with the Serbian airline in 2014, up 68% on the year. Air Serbia booked a net profit of 2.7 million euro ($3 million) in 2014 as revenues rose 87% to 262 million euro.
Air Serbia operates a fleet comprising a total of 16 aircraft - eight Airbus A319, two Airbus A320, three ATR 72-200 and three ATR 72-500.