The three largest national carriers from the former Yugoslavia are expected to make important decisions over the coming months concerning their fleets. Both Air Serbia and Croatia Airlines plan to add regional aircraft, while Adria continues to show its commitment to Bombardier.
Air Serbia's Chairman, Siniša Mali, has said the airline is looking to develop its regional fleet in the coming year in a bid to strengthen its network. The carrier, which currently operates six ageing 66-seat ATR 72 planes, is yet to decide on 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 recently. 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 new-built aircraft. Russian plane manufacturer Sukhoi and the Japanese Mitsubishi have both approached Air Serbia in regards to its future regional fleet operations. A decision on the make-up of its regional fleet is expected next year ahead of the arrival of ten ordered Airbus A320neos from the second half of 2018 through to 2020. "The new fleet of A320neo aircraft are a key part of our strategy with which we intend to redefine our position on the market, with the most modern and comfortable single-aisle aircraft. As we expand our destination network throughout Europe, we will set new standards with the A320neo both in comfort and quality of service", Mr Kondić said recently.
Croatia Airlines is expected to make a decision concerning the acquisition of 100-seat aircraft within a month. The airline plans to expand its fleet next year, as well as add an additional four Airbus A320neo jets in 2021. Two 100-seat jets are expected to enter the fleet next year with both Bombardier and Embraer models being considered. Ultimately, the carrier aims to add between four to six aircraft of the type. In 2018 Croatia Airlines will also have to decide whether it will extend a financial lease agreement of its six Dash 8 turboprops or opt for another aircraft type altogether. The former is believed to be the more likely option. The Mitsubishi Regional Jet, which has the capacity to seat between seventy and ninety passengers, is seen as a possible alternative for the Dash 8s, with the plane manufacturer itself confirming that Croatia Airlines is one of its core customer targets in Europe. "Croatia Airlines is intensively considering all options for redesigning its fleet, primarily regarding the introduction of 100-seat aircraft, which will enable the company to bridge the capacity difference of the currently used Airbus A319/320 and Dash 8-Q400 aircraft", the carrier said. It added, "Accordingly, the company's Management Board has initiated negotiations with all global producers of 100-seat aircraft, including the Canadian company Bombardier Aerospace, the producer of six Dash 8s which are already a part of Croatia Airlines' fleet".
Adria Airways’ new owners have said the airline's fleet will be expanded this year with “several Bombardier jets”. In January Adria added a second Bombardier CRJ700, which was followed with the lease of a CRJ900ER in April. The carrier is believed to be arranging the addition of another jet to its fleet in the coming months. Despite Adria's plans to retire its aging CRJ200 aircraft during the first quarter of the year, it is now expected to remain with the carrier until further notice. Over the next few years, the Slovenian airline will have to renegotiate aircraft leasing terms for its existing fleet. Next year, the lease for one of its CRJ700 jets will expire, while leasing arrangements for six CRJ900s, which make up the bulk of Adria's fleet, will end in 2018, 2020 and 2022. Leases for three Airbus A319s run until 2021 and 2024. Adria boasts the youngest fleet out of any national carrier in the former Yugoslavia with its average age amounting to nine years.