Air Serbia plans to continue developing its Embraer fleet through its partnership with Greece’s Marathon Airlines, noting that adding an aircraft such as the Airbus A220 would bring no benefits to the company’s existing business strategy for the time being. Responding to a question about the A220 from “Aerotime Hub”, Air Serbia’s CEO, Jiri Marek, said, “Other than being rebranded from its original name into Airbus, the A220 has nothing in common with Airbus. So, you cannot use the benefit of the cockpit commonality, which you have, in our case, with A319s, A320s and A330s where you can use the same pilot. There is no benefit to you if you introduce it because it will be treated as a new aircraft type. You will need new CAMO, engineers, new pilots, new crew and so on”.
Mr Marek noted that savings made through using new technology such as the A220 would be offset by high ownership costs. “There is no benefit for us from that technology at the moment, because if you compare A220s and Embraers, the majority of A220 operators, excluding the big ones like Delta and Korean, are single-fleet operators like airBaltic. Their business model is single-fleet with no complexity, using that model for short-range and long-range. For us it is different, because we are a hub-and-spoke airline, we operate both long-haul and short-haul and for us it is a feeding aircraft. From that perspective, the ownership cost is very important. This new technology, like the A220 and even the Embraer E2, will save you 18% to 20% in direct operating costs but that will not offset the high ownership cost. So, you will increase the cost of feeding your hub and it will become unprofitable”, Mr Marek said. He added, “Therefore, for us, it was a very natural choice to select the Embraer E1, which are mid-age and mature aircraft. The ownership cost is super low and the aircraft don’t face any significant issues like with new technology. At the same time, we didn’t want to deal with the complexity of adding a new aircraft type, which is why this pilot project with Marathon Airlines, which started as a wet-lease and will expand into a CPI model was a logical win-win solution”.
Air Serbia will add a third Embraer E195 aircraft to its fleet shortly and anticipates the arrival of a fourth unit in January of next year. The carrier plans to operate up to six aircraft from the Brazilian manufacturer during the 2024 summer season, all of which will be wet-leased from Greece’s Marathon Airlines. “We are working with Marathon Airlines to transform the Embraer wet-lease into a full damp-lease. That means our cabin crew and our uniforms, while cockpit crew will be from Marathon. We are also looking at some other synergies where the Embraer fleet can be deeply incorporated into Air Serbia but it will not be operated by Air Serbia”.