Air Serbia announced on July 2, 2018, that its equity partnership with Etihad Airways would remain unchanged. The UAE-based airline will keep its 49% share in the Serbian flag carrier (the rest being owned by the local government).

The management team appointed by Etihad, CEO Duncan Naysmith and COO Declan Keller, will remain in office until December 31, 2018.

The news was announced after Air Serbia reported a record net profit of €15.7 million for 2017, with an income of €288 million. According to the airline, operating expenses have been decreased by 7%, while sales revenue was increased by 4% for this year. In 2016, Air Serbia had declared a net profit of €0.9 million. However, the calculation of this profit was questioned, as it also included a tenth of million euros injected by the Serbian government, according to Serbian media Insajder.

European carrier. Some stakes owned by Etihad Airways. Undergoing restructuring. Sounds familiar? After two Etihad-owned airlines filed for bankruptcy in 2017, the question remains – which one is next? Air Serbia is taking steps not to become the answer to this question.

“2017 was a pivotal year for Air Serbia that saw the airline implement fundamental changes to strengthen the business, which have already positively impacted on many key operating metrics,” said interim CEO Duncan Naysmith. The changes include new Saber technology, a centralized booking and check-in system that entered service in February 2018.

The Serbian government praised its partnership with the airline from Abu-Dhabi. “Five years after the commencement of the successful equity partnership with Etihad Airways, Air Serbia is now fully standing on its own feet,” said President of the Government of Serbia, Ana Brnabić. “We are excited about Air Serbia’s perspectives and the continuation of our successful equity partnership with Etihad”.

Air Serbia is the last remaining Europe airline with Etihad as a minor stakeholder, after the failures of Air Berlin (AB1) , Darwin Airline and Alitalia.

According to the five years management agreement signed in 2013 by Etihad and the Serbian government, Etihad has until July 1, 2018, to notify of its decision to divest or not from Air Serbia in 2019.