Air Serbia's Chairman, Siniša Mali, has said the airline is looking to develop its regional fleet in the coming years in a bid to strengthen its network. The carrier, which currently operates six 66-seat ATR 72 planes, is yet to decide whether it will maintain its regional operations with turboprop or jet-engine aircraft in the future. "Our strategy is to start flying double daily to a number of cities and to get new regional planes. We will see whether they will be turboprops or jet-engine aircraft. With these, we can cover points in the region", Mr Mali said. Last year, Air Serbia's CEO, Dane Kondić, noted that such a decision will depend on a range of factors such as pricing and other terms and conditions. However, leasing aircraft, rather than ordering them from the manufacturer, could be a simpler solution due to the longer time required to deliver newly ordered aircraft.
Russian plane manufacturer Sukhoi and the Japanese Mitsubishi have both approached Air Serbia in regards to its future regional fleet operations. Late last year a delegation from the Sukhoi Civil Aircraft company, which manufactures the SSJ 100 commercial jet, visited Serbia where they held talks with representatives from the country's aviation sector including Air Serbia, aircraft maintenance company Jat Tehnika and the Serbian Civil Aviation Directorate. Vladimir Lavrov, the Chief Designer at the Sukhoi Company, said at the time, "It is safe to say that talks with our Serbian colleagues were very successful. We found a few ideas that we will develop jointly and received a number of interesting proposals from our Serbian counterparts". The SSJ 100 has the capacity to seat between 87 and 108 passengers, depending on cabin layout and seat configuration.
The Mitsubishi Regional Jet (MRJ), which will be able to seat between seventy and ninety passengers, will begin deliveries in 2017 following several production delays. Last year, the company said it hopes to secure Air Serbia as its customer. "The last thing we need to achieve for the time being is to get an order from a European nation. Air Serbia is a core target for us. It has strong backing from Etihad and is looking to expand its network", the manufacturer's President for Europe said.
Air Serbia inherited part of its ATR fleet from JAT Yugoslav Airlines, meaning some of its turboprops will turn 26 this summer. They were delivered new to the carrier in 1990. Last year, Air Serbia leased an additional ATR, stating it was a "logical step". "These aircraft are well known for their reliability in diverse flight conditions and are ideally suited for our regional routes. Our pilots and crew know this type of aircraft very well, so the latest addition to our fleet can be deployed immediately after the completion of required formalities and provide additional capacity during the peak of the summer season", the carrier noted. Etihad Airways' equity partners operate a mixed regional fleet. Alitalia utilises Embraer jets, while ATR is preferred by Jet Airways. Virgin Australia operates both ATRs and Embraers, while Etihad Regional uses ATRs and Saab aircraft. On the other hand, Air Berlin has opted for the Bombardier Dash 8s.[post_ads]