Air Serbia Considers Acquiring Planes For Post-COVID-19 Expansion

Serbia’s Finance Minister Siniša Mali said this week that the state could support Air Serbia in acquiring new aircraft for a post-COVID expansion. This move could involve both short-haul and long-haul growth, and so could involve a whole range of new aircraft. Let’s take a look at where Air Serbia could expand.

Air Serbia aircraft Airbus
Air Serbia livery could soon be placed on a lot more aircraft. Photo: ERIC SALARD via flickr

The announcement

In a news conference on Wednesday discussing the impact of COVID-19 on the Serbian economy, the country’s Finance Minister Siniša Mali spoke about the impact of the pandemic on Serbia’s national airline.

Siniša Mali said he had met with Air Serbia’s representatives the day before. Here, he reiterated that Serbia would “definitely” help the carrier. He called the airline a “national symbol” of the country. After that, he said it would “definitely not go bankrupt”.

He then said that it is yet undecided how the government will help Air Serbia, but that it certainly will. He said discussions are taking place about specific business plans for the future, noting that acquiring new aircraft could be a good move now that airlines are struggling worldwide.

Earlier in May, Serbia’s Minister for Construction, Transport and Infrastructure, Zorana Mihajlović, announced Serbia is prepared to purchase all of Etihad’s 49% share in the airline. This way, Serbia would fully nationalize the company.

Air Serbia Airbus A330
Air Serbia could acquire another Airbus A330-200 for scheduled services to China. Photo: Getty Images

Siniša Mali also said that without Air Serbia, there would have been no way for the country to repatriate as many citizens as it did, including on one-off flights to Washington and Los Angeles. He also stressed that Air Serbia brought an extraordinary amount of cargo to Serbia, onboard its Airbus A330-200 flying back and forth from Belgrade to China.

What aircraft could Air Serbia get?

Air Serbia has been operating flights to Guangzhou or Shanghai almost daily for the whole of last month. In light of increasingly close diplomatic relations between China and Serbia, the airline could soon launch scheduled services from Belgrade to China.

Shanghai has been rumored as a new long-haul destination for Air Serbia for the last two years. The development of relations amid the COVID-19 pandemic could have been the final push this route needed to materialize.

At the same time, Air Serbia could be looking to expand its European network too. The airline launched 21 new routes last year and was on course to launch a further ten in 2020. The scale of the expansion was massive, and it came at a cost: a third of Air Serbia services were delayed last year, as Simple Flying reported in February.

Serbia and Russia have been in talks about a sale of Sukhoi SSJ100 aircraft to Air Serbia. Photo: SuperJet International – Sukhoi via Wikimedia Commons and Konstantin von Wedelstaedt via Wikimedia Commons

In March, it emerged that Serbia and Russia are resuming talks about the sale of Sukhoi SSJ100 aircraft to Air Serbia. This news was announced by Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister Yury Borisov.

Further requirements

Air Serbia would need new aircraft not only for any further network expansion but also to replace some of its existing units. The airline has one of the oldest fleets of any national airline in Europe. The average age of Air Serbia’s aircraft is 18 years, according to Airfleets. In its fleet are four Boeing 737 aircraft that are 34 years old. Additionally, there are six ATR 72 aircraft that are over 24 years old. Even its Airbus A319 and A320 aircraft are, on average, 18 years old.

Do you think Air Serbia will succeed in its intention to capture markets left vacant post-COVID-19? Let us know what you think in the comment section.