More of the same or a time for new beginnings in 2013
As another year passes not much has changed at Jat Airways. The airline is still operating an aging fleet of fourteen aircraft and is still burdened by an outstanding order for eight Airbus jets made in 1998. Furthermore, it is still without a strategic partner and has to deal with growing debt. The Serbian government announced that a Memorandum of Understanding for the financial lease of four Airbus A319s, four ATR72-600s and the purchase of a further four Airbus A320s would be signed this month with an official order to be made in February, however such a deal has not materialised. The government also planned to create a debt free successor national carrier by April 2013, although this too has been put on hold. Today, the Serbian Minister for Transport, Milutin Mrkonjić, said Jat remains a priority for the government in 2013. However, the minister is singing a somewhat different tune to a month ago when he was selling the company to Air Asia, local businessmen and setting up a new airline. “Jat remains a key problem. A task group made up of professionals is working out a strategy for the future. Jat will have to push through another year with its current fleet”, Mr. Mrkonjić said
Yesterday, the Serbian government approved for Jat to take out a ten million euro loan from the banks for operational purposes. Only a month ago the very same government blocked Jat from taking out the loan under the pretext of the creation of a new national carrier. Despite its woes, Jat is set to record its busiest year since the breakup of Yugoslavia with over 1.3 million passengers to be handled by the end of the month. It is a long way from the 4.531.000 passengers welcomed onboard in 1987, although back then it catered for a market of twenty million people, handling 2.255.000 passengers on domestic flights alone.
Jat has already begun planning its 2013 summer season timetable with its existing fleet. As 2013 sets in, a change in management is also anticipated, although, strong political ties have seen the current management stay at the helm. The airline will have to work hard to attract passengers on flights to Istanbul next year with the arrival of Pegasus Airlines but will also breathe a sigh of relief as Air France and Niki pull out on their respective routes. Whether 2013 will be yet another status quo year for Jat remains to be seen.