Air Serbia plans to grow its ATR72-600 turboprop fleet by over 65% with the addition of another four units by mid-2024. The carrier is also sourcing a third wide-body Airbus A330-200 aircraft to expand long-haul operations, however, limited supply of second-hand jets and other supply-chain issues are posing a problem. The Serbian carrier plans to add its seventh ATR72-600, from the GOAL leasing company, sometime this month, while a further three would be leased by the peak summer travel period of next year. The carrier is also seeking its third A330-200. “We have secured the traffic rights for Shanghai and Guangzhou . It’s now a matter of when we can get in the third wide-body”, Air Serbia’s CEO, Jiri Marek, told “FlightGlobal” magazine. Its choice between the two Chinese cities will then depend on where it can secure slots.
Air Serbia has seen aircraft lessors pull out of deals in the final stages of negotiations, including one for the extra A330 it wants to expand its long-haul offerings, “because the existing customer has either extended the deal or overpaid”, according to Mr Marek. And on spare parts, where you “normally wait weeks, you are now waiting months”, leaving some aircraft on the ground for extended periods. “I think it will get worse, because now you are starting to see the secondary affect … everybody is buying up spare parts, so you are creating even bigger demand than is actually required. And the OEMs [Original Equipment Manufacturers] cannot cope with that and they should not, because if they get ready now for this peak in demand for spare parts, then they will have a problem later on with scaling down. So, I think it will last three to four years”, Mr Marek added.
The airline has used its aircraft wet-leasing strategy to overcome some of these issues. “Wet-leasing aircraft has two purposes for Air Serbia. One is we are covering charter demand over summer, which is a sizeable business and one we have spent the past couple of years doing as a wet-lease operation. On the other hand, since we are growing significantly, wet-lease is a low-risk strategy, because if it is working, we can easily transfer, for example, 50% of the wet-lease into a dry-lease and continue next year with expansion. Plus it is helping us to overcome supply-chain issues and issues with aircraft availability”, the CEO noted.