Air Serbia readies for new development phase

Air Serbia is set to embark on a new development phase as it approaches its tenth anniversary since it was rebranded from Jat Airways in late October led by Etihad Airways. Although the Emirati carrier still owns a 16.4% stake in the airline, it has no influence over its Serbian counterpart. The official partnership that still exists is likely to end sometime after January 1, 2024 after Etihad’s five plus five year equity investment contract in the airline comes to an end. The aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic has resulted in Air Serbia’s turbocharged expansion, making it one of the fastest growing in Europe this year. This summer season, the carrier is the 42nd largest European airline by available seat capacity, up from 59th in 2019.

Air Serbia will unveil several novelties in the lead-up to its tenth anniversary in just over two months. Furthermore, the carrier is planning to grow its long-haul network with the addition of a third Airbus A330-200 aircraft and imminent expansion in China. A fourth A330 jet is also being sourced for further expansion in North America. A recent wide-ranging codeshare agreement with jetBlue will be expanded in the coming period, which will see the US airline add its designator code on Air Serbia’s European flights as well. In the short-haul sector, the Serbian carrier plans to put a greater emphasis on densifying its network with additional frequencies, while the addition of new routes is also expected if aircraft availability permits. Fleet-wise, the carrier is looking to replace the majority of its A319 jets with A320s, while additional growth of the regional ATR fleet is also planned, with the seventh aircraft of the type scheduled to arrive this month. The airline is due to take delivery of its first Embraer E195 aircraft this week, which will be operated by Greece’s Marathon Airlines but is expected to eventually come under the Serbian registry. Further growth of its Embraer fleet is expected by the end of the year.
First E195 in Air Serbia livery, image curtsey of TangoSix

This summer has seen the airline face a number of challenges, including the late arrival of contracted aircraft due to supply chain issues. Additional problems have been caused due to a lack of staff at its hub airport, construction work and frequent severe weather disrupting its network. The airline has been criticised for growing too fast while aware of the state of the aviation sector and the adverse impact it will have on passengers. However, it’s CEO, Jiri Marek, has argued the airline could either take opportunities following the pandemic or stagnate. Despite the ongoing issues, the carrier is on course to handle a record 3.5 million passengers this year while its net profit in the first half of the year is said to have exceeded its total end-of-year profit in 2022 which amounted to 21 million euros.

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