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The In-House Buzz: Interview with Branko Gabric of Air Serbia

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According to Branko Gabric, General Counsel at Air Serbia in Belgrade, we are living in historic times. He reports that the unprecedented pandemic, as well as the subsequent vaccination process, has greatly affected not only the aviation industry, but also the legal sector in his country.

“Only the fittest and the most adaptable will survive this situation,” Gabric says, explaining that the final answer to the crisis in the aviation sector lies not in legislation, but rather on the nimbleness of every company in it. Oddly enough, despite the drop in air travel, Gabric reports that there has never been as much work for in-house legal teams as now. At the same time, he says, companies have become more cost-sensitive and are looking to cut corners where possible, posing real challenges to the legal profession in his country. An adequate response, in his mind, would be to change the modus operandi. “Legal departments had been perceived as a part of the ‘back office’ prior to the pandemic,” he says. “The time has come for the legal sector to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the ‘front end’ of each company, to become more business-oriented, and more agile." To that end, he says, the future is digital, and technology will play a more prominent role in the everyday life of lawyers.

That will come as a substantial change in Serbia, where, he says, a lot of the work is still done on paper. In addition, he adds that the structure of work itself will have to change so as to become more efficient and less time-consuming.

For Air Serbia, Gabric says, around 80% of its flights are focused on Europe. Since most of the EU is still under strict lockdown, Air Serbia has frequently had to adapt its flight itinerary, favoring certain routes, and providing stimulus to its passengers. “Serbia’s decision to reintroduce possession of valid PCR tests for foreigners entering the county in December 2020 was, without question, the right decision in terms of fighting the COVID-19 outbreak,” he says, but he adds that it brought additional challenges to the already burdened industry. However, he notes, with the advancement in vaccination globally, the situation might soon change. “We are eagerly monitoring the vaccination process and we are hoping that air travel will go back to normal soon.”

Furthermore, Gabric reports that on March 9, 2021, Air Serbia became one of the first European airlines to introduce the IATA Travel Pass — a mobile application that helps passengers organize their flights in line with testing and vaccination rules imposed by different countries. Gabric describes the platform as a "potential game-changer," and says that “it is always interesting to be a part of the global initiative and to work jointly on something that can finally move things from where they are at the moment.”

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