Solution to Jat’s Airbus saga on the horizon?
A high ranking delegation from Airbus will begin talks with the Serbian government today in an attempt to sell twelve of its jets to the Serbian national carrier Jat Airways. According to media reports the deal is too good to be refused by the Serbian government. The European plane manufacturer is offering twelve jets from the A320 family. The potential purchase of the aircraft would end Jat’s aircraft shortage and substantially modernise its fleet.
In 1998, the Yugoslav government ordered eight Airbus A319s for its national carrier, a highly unfavourable and politically motivated deal worth 560 million dollars at the time. Despite a deposit of 23.5 million dollars, the aircraft were never delivered. Airbus is now offering Jat to pay up another 20 million dollars, after which it will begin delivering the aircraft. The Serbian government is then expected to give state guarantees for Jat to take out a 140 million euro loan with which it will finance its new Airbus fleet. The deal includes the training of at least five groups of cabin crew lasting up to 41 days, engine selection as well as spare parts. Earlier this year, Jat’s maintenance division, Tehnika, and Airbus announced the creation of a joint regional training centre in Belgrade. Jat Tehnika is expected to be granted necessary permits next month to maintain Airbus jets.
Jat Airways currently has a fleet of ten Boeing 737-300s and four ATR72s. The oldest aircraft in its fleet is Europe’s first passenger 737-300, which arrived in Belgrade on August 8, 1985. However, its fleet’s flying time is still relatively low compared to its age, since most of Jat’s aircraft were grounded during the 1990s. Officially, Jat has operated Airbus jets in its long history. In 2005, during the airline’s biggest industrial action in history, the carrier scrambled to lease aircraft, flight crew and aircraft mechanics. Through the one month strike, several Airbus aircraft operated on behalf of Jat Airways.