Today we will look at the first-ever Serbian airline and the 10th airline to be founded in Europe. On February 6, 1926, an initiative of Serbian Aero-Club decided to create an airline that they would call “Aeroput.” The new airline was registered on the Belgrade stock exchange but failed to raise the cash it needed to purchase aircraft. By 1927, only 10% of all shares had been sold, putting Aeroput on the brink of being delisted under the Serbian laws of joint stock companies.
The most prominent figure in the world of Serbian aviation at the time, Tadija Sondermajer, who also happened to be a director of Aeroput, decided that a promotional flight might attract people to buy shares in his airline. Together with Russian pilot Leonid Bajdak, the pair flew from Paris to Bombay in India. After flying nearly 9,200 miles in 14 days, the duo landed in Belgrade, where 30,000 people greeted them.
The flight had achieved its aim, with all shares in the new airline being bought up. Now fully funded, Aeroput purchased four Potez 29/2 biplanes, which it planned to operate from Belgrade’s new airport on the left bank of the Sava River. Aeroput’s first-ever flight took place on February 15, 1928, ferrying journalists from Belgrade to Zagreb. The two-hour flight between the Serbian and Croatian capitals became the airline’s first regular service with daily flights except for Sundays.
In 1937 Aeroput began flying modern Lockheed Model 10A Electra aircraft
In 1928 Aeroput joined the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and operated its first international flight between Belgrade and Vienna, with a stop in Zagreb a year later. By 1930, Aeroput was flying internationally from Belgrade to Graz in Austria and Thessaloniki in Greece, with a stop in Skopje, Macedonia.
In 1932, Aeroput expanded its fleet with new Farman F.306’s and a year later, two Caudron C.449 Goéland monoplanes and a single de Havilland DH.89 Dragon Rapide. In the late 1930s, the airline began renewing its fleet with the modern Lockheed Model 10A Electra, the same type of plane Amelia Earhart was flying when she disappeared over the Pacific Ocean in 1937.
Now with new aircraft, Aeroput expanded its network with flights from Belgrade to Budapest, Sofia, and Tirana. During the summer months, Aeroput flew from Belgrade to Venice via Milan and Prague via Zagreb, Vienna, and Brno.
Aeroput ceased operations during WWII
During the Second World War, Aeroput suspended all operations. When the Axis powers invaded the Balkans in 1941, they seized all of Aeroput’s planes, effectively putting them out of business. Following the war, the Communists took power, nationalizing all the country’s companies and setting up a power base in Belgrade from where it could control the county’s six autonomous regions.
While no longer in existence, Aeroput and its employees became a part of the state-run Jugoslovenski Aerotransport, which most people remember as JAT. In 2013 JAT rebranded as Air Serbia.