Could Air Serbia Be Close To A Huge Sukhoi SSJ100 Order?

The Serbian flag carrier Air Serbia is in talks with Russian aircraft manufacturer Sukhoi Civil Aircraft Company about a major order that would renew most of Air Serbia’s fleet. It seems that Sukhoi is finally about to find a permanent European customer for its SJ100 aircraft.

The Sukhoi aircraft could soon be wearing Air Serbia’s livery. Photo: SuperJet International – Sukhoi and Konstantin von Wedelstaedt via Wikimedia

Air Serbia is doing great right now

The Serbian flag carrier has had a great year in 2019, and it looks set to have a great 2020.

It launched a staggering 21 new routes this summer and is building a strong regional transfer hub in Belgrade Nikola Tesla Airport. It is doing this by launching niche international routes like Krasnodar and operating niche regional ones like Tirana, Podgorica, and Ljubljana. Air Serbia has positioned itself as a leading transfer airline for these destinations.

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At the same time, it is expanding its offering in the long-haul transfer market by partnering with Finnair for an extensive codeshare partnership.

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It continues to be supported by the Serbian government, which will pay Air Serbia to launch two new routes out of the brand new airport of Morava in Kraljevo. Air Serbia is also being paid to fly out of the third Serbian airport of Niš.

The Serbian flag carrier receives annual government financial assistance. As Serbia is not in the EU, annual financial assistance for the airline is allowed. With all this state support and successful growth in passenger numbers and destinations, it is unsurprising that Air Serbia is looking at fleet replacement options.

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Air Serbia was the sole applicant to the 5.5 million Euro tender. Photo: Konstantin von Wedelstaedt via Wikimedia

34-year old Boeing 737s

Air Serbia presently has one of the oldest fleets of any national airline in Europe. The average age of its aircraft is 18 years, according to airfleets.net.

It has four Boeing 737s that are 34 years old and six ATR 42 aircraft that are over 24 years old. Even its Airbus A319 and A320 aircraft are on average 18 years old.

There are two reasons why Air Serbia needs to replace these: firstly, the cost of regular and irregular maintenance is far higher than it would be for new aircraft. Secondly, it is proving to be an issue for Air Serbia’s image in the local media.

Sukhoi steps in

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. Indeed, it recently agreed to take five more.

Previous SSJ100 customers in Europe included Brussels Airlines, which tested the aircraft through a lease agreement with CityJet. But even CityJet has returned all its SSJ100 and so Brussels Airlines is no longer using them at all.

Brussels Airlines Sukhoi Superjet
A Brussels Airlines SSJ 100. Photo: Transport Pixels via flickr

As was originally reported by Tass News Agency three weeks ago, Sergey Prikhodko of Russia’s Government Office confirmed that talks between Air Serbia and Sukhoi are indeed taking place.

Furthermore, this week it was Putin himself who confirmed that Russia is “ready” to supply Serbia with Russian aircraft. This emerged during Putin’s visit to Belgrade and was reported by See News.

More importantly, mention was made of Belgrade Nikola Tesla Airport becoming the European maintenance center for Russian aircraft. This makes it increasingly likely that Air Serbia will indeed acquire Sukhoi aircraft, as it is itself based in Belgrade. Air Serbia’s own technical maintenance division has been put up for sale.

What part of the fleet could be replaced?

It is expected that the Boeing 737 aircraft will definitely be going since they are far older than Air Serbia would like its aircraft to be. But could Air Serbia be considering replacing its ATR 42 fleet too? Perhaps even its Airbus A319s?

If Belgrade is to become a center for maintenance, and Sukhoi offers a significant discount to Air Serbia for placing a huge order, then this might indeed be possible.

Do you think there is sense in Air Serbia’s decision to replace its Boeing and Airbus fleet with Sukhoi aircraft when no other European airline uses the SSJ100? Let us know in the comments below.

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Alexander

No sense. Ss100 is a piece of junk. Would never fly one.

Farhan Nazar

Incorrect. The plane itself is actually pretty good as an entrant to regional jet market, giving Bombardier and Embraer good competition in terms of performance, range and passenger capacity.

Unfortunately the after purchase support for the plane from Sukhoi is to put it mildly, Awful (Especially for airlines outside of Russia). This makes the plane incredibly expensive to operate and thus the lack of faith from most airlines.

But because it’s mentioned that a maintenance center will be build in Belgrade maybe that’ll change.

AA AAC

SSJ100 is giving Bombardier and Embraer competition ? You gotta be dreaming. Look at how many SSJ100 are flying v.s. Bombardier and Embraer.

Farhan Nazar

There’s this little thing called stat you know? Because the ssj is comparable in that area.

Plus when they were flying in good condition it’s performance is not that far off the competition. Don’t judge an aircraft type by the number of them that are flying boy.

Gabriel

Why do you think so?

Kamelin

“Brussels Airlines will no longer use Sukhoi SSJ100 Jets.” That is all politics and idiotic! Brussels is the center of NATO (Democrat! enemies of the Russia). So a member of NATO will not want to use a Russian aircraft or a Chinese (COMAC) aircraft. But using a “Flying Coffin” (737 MAX) will not be a problem for them. European Countries and others (Australia, New Zealand, Japan, South Korea…) must break the chains of US. American Politicians always claim that “US is the country of Freedom and it takes Freedom wherever it goes”. This is a GREAT LIE. America is the… Read more »

Sphere

This is an aviation news site, not a goddamn politics forum. Also, please spell-check your political rants before you post.

AA AAC

Brussel Airlines is being merged into Lufthansa. Lufthansa already used Bombardier jet so it want commonality. Beside, Bombardier jet offered good reliability and after sales support which the Russian can not. Personally, I would not fly on SSJ100. See their latest crash.

Farhan Nazar

What is your source for Brussels being merged into Lufthansa?

Also the latest ssj100 crash was pure pilot error (you should know this if you read the latest article from this site about the crash which you clearly didn’t do), nothing about the plane is at fault unlike the max.

David Galbraith

Taken directly from Brussels Airlines Wikipedia page: “Brussels Airlines is part of the Lufthansa Group.”

Farhan Nazar

That’s not the same as being “merged”

Farhan Nazar

Well since;

Farhan Nazar

1) air Serbia is in Europe. 2) Serbia has close ties to Russia. 3) "mention was made of Belgrade Nikola Tesla Airport becoming the European maintenance center for Russian aircraft". I personally see this as being almost a certainty to happen.

Colm

Please tell me how big is a “huge” order? At most they might buy 10? It is a good plane and Brussels airlies actually liked it. They did not like the appalling lack of spares and it not being able to fly on numerous occasions. That is why cityjet got rid of them. Air Serbia will face exactly the same issues. They might be tempted by the give away price but they should look at cityject and interjet and think before they purchase !

Oleg E.

CityJet is just unprofessional company

Aauuu

Nice to see some paid comments praising this piece of crap 🙂

Out of 170 made, three already crashed. Realiability ratio is poor, with up to 90 malfunctions per 1000 fligt hours. Combine this with crappy service, and russian ‘a nam poxui’ attitude, and you get a reason why any sane airline is running away from these as far as they can.

The only operators are Putins puppets like Aeroflot and soon to be air serbia

Farhan Nazar

You sir are a great example of a retarded person who’s been brainwashed by Western media.

Pannon

And none of the crashes were a result of mechanical issues with the plane itself. Objectivity mate, objectivity 🙂

Norman clark

Better than boeing. At least they are honest….

Djespo

Better hope it never get struck by lightning and don’t forget to buy an extra one for parts. On the positive it’s much more balanced than the Max and less prone to digging up dirt and kills less than 50% passengers during accidents than the Max 100%. If I had to pick I would pick Airbus but Sukhoi is a good second choice

Rob Taylor

As others have said the SSJ is a good aircraft be set with parts supply issues. I flew on a Brussels SSJ, found it a lovely aircraft. I also know a pilot who flew the SSJ, he found it an easy aircraft to fly but frustrating with the supply problems.

Moaz Abid

Why not replace the ancient ATR’s with new ATR’s or Bombardier’s

Chuck

The problem for these smaller flag carriers is the equipment used (A320, B737) has an inherent design bias and cost to operate geared toward larger continental airlines like BA, AA, UA, DL, Ryan, etc. However, look at the success of AirBaltic (flag carrier of Latvia). The A220 fits like a glove for “thinner” routes, whether long haul (AirBaltic to the Middle East) or short haul (Delta JFK to Boston). The SSJ100 would fit this niche well (max range of 2845 miles with the LR version, approx. 85 – 100 PAX). However, the biggest issue as stated in the article is… Read more »

Hugh

The SSJ100 is as good as any other aircraft in the market place at present.

Kirrill

We recently canceled a trip to Sochi with Aeroflot after reading of the history of the development of this plane including engineers with faked degrees and then its history of unsafe operations. Only 170 planes, all with abnormally high maintenance costs and unreliable service. Three have crashed already. I would never fly on this plane anywhere no matter how cheap. I’m sure Air Serbia will likewise lose many customers who refuse to fly on such a death trap. I like Aeroflot, but Aeroflot only purchases SSJ100’s because it’s Russian government-run airline and is compelled to purchase them. I fly alot… Read more »

Farhan Nazar

Weird of you to do that considering the crash wasn’t exactly the plane’s fault…..

Luis

Well, all has been said about the after sales service, etc. I think Air Serbia has no option really but to embrace this as the only possible deal. Without money they cannot dream of renewing, let alone expand their fleet, with none of the big brands in the market (Airbus, Boeing, Embraer or Bombardier). It will be an interesting Case to watch. The SSJ100 may be a life saver for Air Serbia but not the other way around. Sukhoi is a military plane maker, and the SSJ100 their entry product in commercial aviation. I hope they learn from their mistakes… Read more »

Steven

I believe the deal is being/been done behind the scenes by EY (Abu Dhabi). EY and their so called stategic partnerships have caused them huge losses over the last 3 years of nearly 5 billion US$. AZ is bankrupt and a never ending black-hole of debt, Darwin has already gone bust, Air Seychelles was/is also a bottomless pit of debt, Jet Airways has also gone belly-up, so its in EY interest to keep feeding the investment, and as the aircraft are in dire need of replacement, they have called up Uncle Vladimir to help. He did incidentally briefly pass by… Read more »