New plans envisages new aircraft and less employeesThe Serbian government is preparing a restructuring plan for its national carrier to be implemented in 2012. Although the task-group working on the restructuring program has yet to decide whether the state should create a new national carrier to replace Jat or leave the airline with its current brand name, it is believed they are leaning towards the latter. “Since there was no interest earlier in the year for a strategic partner to purchase Jat, we have decided to prepare a development strategy because we believe it is important for the country to have a national airline”, the office of the Prime Minister said in a statement. The new program outlines that Jat will have 700 employees (down from the current 1.200), but adds that no one will lose their job. Instead, employees will leave by choice and will be offered bonuses and stimulus packages, which could prove worthwhile for employees who have a few years left until retirement. An attempt to forcefully sack employees several years ago ended in failure as all of those dismissed launched legal battles and were returned to work.
Fleet wise, the plan envisages the purchase of five to eight new aircraft, although Jat’s existing fleet wouldn’t be retired in the near future. Negotiations with Airbus regarding the 1998 order for 8 Airbus A319s will be resumed while cooperation with the ATR aircraft manufacturer will also begin.
Economists have heavily criticised the government over the past few months for not restructuring the airline before putting it on offer in an ambiguous international tender, which ended in failure a few months ago. Once again millions were wasted on financial and privatisation advisors, of which there was no use in the end. Meanwhile, Jat’s catering division, which was divided from the carrier several years ago, will be put up on auction tomorrow. It is the fourth time this year that a 70% stake in Jat Catering has been put up on sale as there has been no interest previously. The minimal asking price is just over 1 million Euros, significantly down on previous sale attempts. The company has 137 employees.