Air Serbia is exploring the opportunity of introducing a regional aircraft into its fleet to fill the void between the regional ATR turboprops and the jet-engine Airbus narrow-body aircraft but the carrier does not see it as an immediate priority.
Its CEO, Jiri Marek, told the “Airways Magazine” recently. “We are looking into it but not for the near future, maybe as a mid-term strategy. The A220 aircraft is much in demand. Ownership costs are high, so I do not see that happening, and there are also engine maintenance issues”.
He added, “The Embraer might be something to consider, especially the latest project of the turboprop ninety-seater with similar costs to an ATR’s operating costs. However, that idea exists only on paper at the moment”.
The CEO noted that the airline may bridge the gap between the ATRs and Airbuses through wet-leases in the short-term. “For any immediate bridging of the gap, we can always find some regional jet operators in the form of wet-leases”, Mr Marek explained.
Air Serbia had previously wet-leased regional jets on occasion. In the summer of 2016, the airline took a CRJ900 from Adria Airways without any leasing costs as a means of settling historical debt owed to the Serbian carrier. The aircraft was deployed on flights to Hamburg and Kiev, which were launched that summer, as well as Sofia.
The jet was returned after the high season. In 2019, the airline wet-leased a CRJ900 from Regional Jet over the summer and had planned to have the aircraft during the 2020 high season as well, although this did not materialise due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Plane manufacturer Embraer had previously said it believes it has the right aircraft for the Serbian national carrier.
“Embraer has a very good relationship with Air Serbia, and we regularly exchange thoughts on industry matters and business development topics. Air Serbia took an impressive development since its launch, and we also took notice of their efforts in navigating through and out of the pandemic.
With our E2 family, as well as the development of a future next-gen turboprop aircraft, we believe to have a striking fit for Air Serbia and will support their team for any future fleet evaluations”. Air Serbia has ruled out the introduction of brand new aircraft to its fleet for the time being and has said it will instead opt for mid-age planes.