Serbian Government In Talks To Buy 8 SJ100s For Air Serbia

Air Serbia may soon become a Sukhoi Superjet 100 customer as the Serbian state resumes talks for the acquisition of this Russian-made aircraft. The talks were previously held just over a year ago, before COVID-19, when Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister hinted that Air Serbia might purchase eight SSJ100s.

Air Serbia SSJ100
Air Serbia’s livery could soon be on SSJ100 aircraft. Photo: SuperJet International – Sukhoi and via Wikimedia

Serbia and Russia hold talks – again

Serbia and Russia are again holding talks about the possibility of Air Serbia, the flag carrier of Serbia, acquiring Sukhoi Superjet 100 passenger aircraft as part of its fleet renewal plan.

In a statement seen by Simple Flying, the Russian Ministry of Industry and Trade announced that talks for Serbia to purchase SSJ100 aircraft for Air Serbia are ongoing and that the deal is “under consideration.”

The discussion on behalf of Russia and Serbia was held last week Friday at the Saint Petersburg International Economic Forum between the Minister of Industry and Trade of the Russian Federation, Denis Manturov, the Deputy Prime Minister of the Russian Federation, Yuri Borisov, and Nenad Popović of the Government of Serbia.

The ongoing negotiations represent an important opportunity for Sukhoi Civil Aircraft Company which is trying to find a permanent customer in Europe outside of Russia for its SSJ100 aircraft.

Air Serbia aircraft
Air Serbia could use the SSJ100 to replace its ATR fleet, which the airline uses to operate flights on high-frequency regional feeder routes. Photo: Air Serbia

Air Serbia is in the midst of fleet renewal

Air Serbia recently retired its last several remaining Boeing 737 aircraft, and it will soon need to retire its low-capacity fleet of ATR72 aircraft too.

Less than two years ago, when the 737s were still flying, their average age was 34. The ATR72s are still flying, and six of them are over 25 years old. Even its Airbus A319 and A320 aircraft are on average 18 years old.

Air Serbia has one of the oldest fleets of any national airline in Europe, so the acquisition of brand new Sukhoi Superjet 100s would be a welcome boost to the airline’s offering. It would also reduce Air Serbia’s maintenance costs.

Aeroflot Sukhoi Superjet
Aeroflot operates the Sukhoi Superjet 100 in Europe. Photo: Getty Images

Sukhoi needs a customer

Sukhoi is very keen to find a customer in Europe to raise the profile of its SSJ100 aircraft. Presently, only Russian airline Aeroflot continues to use the aircraft in Europe on regular scheduled flights.

Previous SSJ100 customers in Europe included Brussels Airlines, which played around with the idea of acquiring the aircraft through a lease agreement with CityJet, but it ultimately did not acquire any Sukhois for itself.

Given the close relationship between the states of Russia and Serbia, and their cooperation on other projects like the Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine, it is not unlikely that Air Serbia would eventually be an airline with a permanent SSJ100 fleet.

Back when these talks were last held, there was also mention of Belgrade Nikola Tesla Airport becoming the European maintenance center for Russian aircraft. This would reduce Air Serbia’s operating costs of having an SSJ100 fleet and also boost the likelihood of more airlines across Europe taking them on.

Do you think Air Serbia will become an SSJ100 operator? Let us know what you think in the comments below.