It has not been confirmed yet by Air Serbia itself, but reports have emerged that the airline is in the process of receiving its second widebody aircraft: an Airbus A330-200 formerly belonging to Aeroflot.
The aircraft, VP-BLY, arrived into Shannon earlier today. It will reportedly be painted in Air Serbia’s livery there and then transferred to Belgrade Nikola Tesla Airport, from where it will operate flights registered as YU-ARB. It is still unclear whether the aircraft is coming as a replacement for the current A330 or as an addition to Air Serbia’s fleet.
A second Airbus A330 for Air Serbia, or a replacement?
An Airbus A330 aircraft that formerly operated flights for Russia’s Aeroflot under the registration VP-BLY arrived earlier today in Shannon, Ireland, from Hong Kong. The aircraft had been stored in Hong Kong since August 2020, when Aeroflot last used it for its own commercial flights.
VP-BLY’s last scheduled flight before today’s positioning flight into Shannon was on 16th August 2020, as flight SU2147, from Antalya (AYT) to Moscow Sheremetyevo (SVO). The next day, on 17th August 2020, it was transferred to Hong Kong, where it had been stored up until today.
For three years, governments of Serbia and Canada have been making announcements relating to the launch of flights between Belgrade and Toronto in the near future. In 2018, the two countries signed an Air Service Agreement. It has long been hoped that Air Serbia would be the airline to launch flights to Toronto, but the airline does not have the fleet capacity to do so at present.
The news that Aeroflot’s VP-BLY aircraft will receive Air Serbia’s livery in Shannon after its arrival there today were first reported by Boarding Pass.However, it remains unclear whether this aircraft will come in addition to Air Serbia’s current A330, or whether it would replace it. So it is not yet possible to conclude whether this news means Air Serbia’s flights to Toronto will materialise.
Air Serbia currently has one widebody aircraft in its fleet, also an Airbus A330-200, registered as YU-ARA. This aircraft operates year-round flights from Belgrade to New York JFK.
They have proven to be particularly popular: Air Serbia put on additional frequencies in October 2020 to cater for the demand on the route. The aircraft has also been used for numerous cargo flights to China, Bahrain, and for passenger charter services.
At present, with a single widebody aircraft, Air Serbia does not have the capacity to launch new long-haul routes. Several decades ago, when it was still known as JAT Yugoslav Airlines, Air Serbia used to fly to a variety of North American destinations like Toronto and Montreal, but also other destinations in Asia, and even to Australia.
Flights from Belgrade to Toronto are within touching distance
As Simple Flying reported in October, the launch of flights between Belgrade and Toronto was an increasingly likely possibility. If it ends up being true that this A330 is heading for Belgrade to become a new addition to Air Serbia’s fleet, then these flights may indeed materialise.
However, if this A330 is coming to Belgrade to replace Air Serbia’s current A330, which is rumored to be returning to Etihad, then Air Serbia’s metal may not end up in Canada just yet.
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