Air Serbia (JU, Belgrade Nikola Tesla) and Turkish Airlines (TK, Istanbul Airport) have inked a Memorandum of Understanding to expand their existing cooperation, potentially through a new joint venture.

"We are pleased to further strengthen our good relations and cooperation with Turkish Airlines. It is our great pleasure to announce that Air Serbia and Turkish Airlines will continue to look for new commercial opportunities for creating efficient and mutually beneficial relationships while considering the option of joining forces to achieve better connectivity and offer for our customers through a possible joint venture on the services between Serbia and Türkiye," Air Serbia Chief Executive Jiri Marek said.

The airlines will aim to expand existing cooperation in terms of codeshare operations, cargo, and frequent flyer programme integration. It is not clear if, going forward, the partnership would be a purely commercial arrangement limited to the Serbia-Turkey market or go beyond that. Marek told ch-aviation the airlines are still exploring what kind of joint venture would best fit their goals but emphasised that it would be a commercial, not equity partnership. Turkish Airlines Chief Executive Bilal Ekşi recently told ch-aviation it was not planning to grow through equity partnerships that have thus far been limited to a 49% stake in Air Albania (ZB, Tirana).

"Both parties will explore only commercial JV cooperation alternatives under the framework of this non-binding MOU," Turkish Airlines told ch-aviation.

Air Serbia - which is not a member of any of the global alliances - has an existing codeshare partnership with Turkish Airlines covering its routes from Belgrade Nikola Tesla to Banja Luka International, Istanbul Airport, and Tivat, and from regional airports Kraljevo Morava and Nis to Istanbul. In turn, Turkish Airlines places the JU code on eleven of its domestic routes from Istanbul, as well as six international routes (including to Belgrade). Flights from Ankara Esenboga to Belgrade, operated under Turkish Airlines' code by its division AnadoluJet (Ankara Esenboga) are also covered by the agreement.

Under the terms of the MOU, Air Serbia will grow its frequency on the Belgrade-Istanbul route to 10x weekly, while Turkish Airlines will deploy a widebody aircraft on two out of its 14 weekly rotations between the cities.