How Air Serbia Operated The Boeing 737-300 For 36 Years

Air Serbia’s leisure airline, Aviolet, retired its entire fleet of Boeing 737 aircraft earlier this year. Air Serbia, then known as JAT Yugoslav Airlines, was the first airline in Europe to operate the Boeing 737-300, and it did so for 36 years. This was largely possible because of UN and EU sanctions on Yugoslavia in the 1990s.

JAT Yugoslav Airlines Boeing 737
JAT Yugoslav Airlines was the first airline in Europe to fly the Boeing 737-300. Photo: Ray Jennings via flickr

Aviolet retires its Boeing 737s

Aviolet, the leisure airline of Serbia’s national airline, Air Serbia, has retired its entire fleet of aircraft earlier this year. The 737s were first delivered to Air Serbia 36 years ago when it was still known as JAT Yugoslav Airlines.

The Boeing 737s never actually operated under the Air Serbia brand. They operated under Air Serbia’s three predecessor brands: JAT Jugoslovenski Aerotransport, JAT Yugoslav Airlines, and Jat Airways, but also Air Serbia’s charter subsidiary brand that existed up until 2021, Aviolet.

Over its 93-year history, the airline operated 10 Boeing 737 aircraft, all of which were 737-300s. Most of these aircraft were delivered brand new in the 1980s to JAT Yugoslav Airlines.

The last two 737s to be withdrawn from use were YU-ANI and YU-ANK. The former operated its last flight from Stockholm to Belgrade on 17th January 2021 and the latter from Frankfurt to Belgrade on 8th February 2021.

How Air Serbia Operated The Boeing 737-300 For 36 Years
The remaining Boeing 737-300 aircraft operated under the Aviolet brand name before the last one was retired in February 2021. Photo: Getty Images

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Air Serbia retired all but two Boeing 737s long before they turned 35

Air Serbia retired much of its Boeing 737-300 fleet many years ago, in line with the lifespan timeline that is expected for Boeing 737 aircraft.

For example, YU-ANV was delivered to JAT Yugoslav Airlines in March 1988 and withdrawn from use by Aviolet in April 2014, according to Planespotters.net. That gave it a lifespan of 26 years.

As another example, YU-AON was delivered to Brasil’s Transbrasil in 1988, transferred to JAT Yugoslav Airlines in 2002, and withdrawn from use in 2014. That is also a lifespan of 26 years.

However, the two Boeing 737-300s mentioned earlier vastly outlived this average lifespan and remained flying more than 35 years after they were first delivered to JAT Yugoslav Airlines. They were YU-ANI and YU-ANK.

Jat Airways Boeing 737-300
Between bearing the JAT Yugoslav Airlines and the Aviolet livery, the 737s operated under the brand Jat Airways. Photo: Aero Icarus via flickr

How could some 737s live to be 35 years old?

The longitude of some of the last remaining Boeing 737-300 aircraft lies in the fact that they were not flying for the whole 36 years of their lifetime.

Between June 1992 and November 1995, Yugoslavia was under strict international sanctions due to the outbreak of several wars in the Balkans, and JAT Yugoslav Airlines could not fly internationally during this time. There was then another three-month period in 1999 when NATO intervened in Yugoslavia, and there were next to no flights during this time.

At the same time, two of the Boeing 737s were seized, also due to sanctions.

YU-ANI was seized in Istanbul in 1992 and held there for eight years. That was the second-last 737 that Air Serbia retired. Another aircraft, YU-ANH, was seized in Dublin on 9th June 1993 while it was there for maintenance while on lease to Bosphorus Airways.

The retirement of the 737s was prolonged several times between 2017 and 2021, but, now that it has finally happened, this is an and of an era: for the first time in almost 40 years, Air Serbia is no longer a Boeing operator.

What do you think of Aviolet and JAT Yugoslav Airlines operating the Boeing 737-300s for 36 years? Let us know what you think of this story in the comments below.

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