Buying in Balk

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Etihad Airways CEO James Hogan has played a key role in the UAE carrier's deal with the Serbian national airline.

Etihad Airways CEO James Hogan has played a key role in the UAE carrier's deal with the Serbian national airline.

Halfway through his speech to announce Etihad Airways’ plan to acquire 49 percent of Serbian carrier JAT Airways, the Abu Dhabi airline’s CEO James Hogan points to a pretty, dark haired young woman sitting in the front row.

Standing up to face international media, she is revealed as Tamara Maksimovic, a 25-year old graphic design student from the little known city of Novi Sad.

As she is blinded in a storm of camera flashes, Hogan reveals that at the end of her course, Maksimovic was required to develop a portfolio of branding designs for an organisation of her choice.

Maksimovic opted to reinvigorate the tired branding of JAT Airways. When her work was discovered on a graphic design website, she was chosen to lead the rebranding of the carrier as Air Serbia. “This is very exciting,” she says, modestly, as Hogan and Serbian deputy prime minister Aleksandar Vucic unveil her designs to the world.

Just as Etihad’s team plucked Maksimovic from obscurity, Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan has taken the Balkan country to heart. Etihad’s acquisition and plan to transform Air Serbia into a profitable carrier within one year will be just the first of many multi-million dollar deals signed between the UAE and Serbia.

Speaking after the deal was signed, Vucic reveals the idea for the Etihad tie-up was first mooted on 10 January when he hosted Sheikh Mohammed at his Belgrade home. “I was honoured to have His Highness at my home… Only five months passed and we had a deal,” he recalls.

“My friend Sheikh Mohammed, whose vision and desire it is that Serbia is stronger and more successful… His idea helped us to implement this important project… The wings of Serbia will take off soon.”

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