Air Serbia considering narrow-body fleet options
Air Serbia is developing a strategy for its narrow-body fleet which has been hit by increasing seasonality due to the coronavirus pandemic. The carrier was forced to lease four planes this summer, supplementing its fleet with ten Airbus A319s and one A320. Air Serbia CEO Jiri Marek noted that this year’s serviced leases were driven by strong demand from tour operators, which exceeded expectations, and were concluded on short notice. “Currently we are looking at the longer term strategy as leisure demand is mid-June to mid-September, and whatever math you do, a bareboat charter option with the additional crew for three months of operations, which the math doesn’t do. We’re either looking to get a capacity provider deal on a long-term basis, over five years, or trying to get joint venture deals with seasonal operators reversed because currently the oversupply of A320s on the market means that some lessors are open to the power-by-the-hour winter model,” Marek told ch-aviation.
The airline is currently reviewing its strategy of strong seasonality, which has further increased due to the Covid pandemic, with a strong growth in demand for leisure flights. “Over the past year, leisure traffic has become very important, while VFR traffic [Visiting Friends and Family] remained stable. The one that is still debatable is business traffic. This is why we have completely revamped our network and announced many new destinations this year, which are mainly VFR and leisure-oriented,” Mr. Marek said. However, this has led to increased seasonality, which has been reduced in the pre-Covid era thanks to the development of the hub model.
In the short term, the airline has no plans to renew its fleet of medium-aged narrow-body Airbus aircraft, but other jets of the same type may be added in the future. Mr Marek acknowledged that ultimately new aircraft would have to be introduced into the fleet. Since the A319-100neo and B737-7 are niche aircraft, the airline could increase its narrow-body fleet and then make room for the addition of 100-seat regional jets. However, the carrier’s CEO stressed that this is not a short-term prospect for them at the moment.