The Canadian plane manufacturer Bombardier has urged Air Serbia to replace its regional ATR fleet with the Dash 8 Q400 turboprop. Speaking on the sidelines of the Southeast Europe Aviation Summit, Bombardier's Director of Sales for Europe, Russia and CIS, Mark Gilbert, said, "Looking at Air Serbia, the Q400 not only replaces the ATRs but also helps them on some routes that are longer and that are narrower that go up to narrow bodies, which we understand are not being flown to full capacity, which is important. A good solution for Air Serbia would be two prone, the Q400 and C-series. I'm not saying that the CRJ900 and CRJ1000 would not fit here, but I would not want to go into an airline and give a three-aircraft solution. Let's keep it simple and let's give them two different fleet types". Within the former Yugoslavia, the Q400 turboprop, which has the capacity to seat up to 76 passengers, is currently flown only by Croatia Airlines. This year, Bombardier began offering the Q400 in a ninety-seat high density variant. According to Bombardier marketing, the aircraft breaks even with about a third of its seats filled.
Air Serbia currently operates six ageing 66-seat ATR72 planes and 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", Air Serbia's Chairman, Siniša Mali, has said. Last year, the airline'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.
Bombardier has also seen an opportunity to pitch its new C-series aircraft to Air Serbia. Mr Gilbert noted, "They have a fleet of A319 and A320s and the C-series is an optimal aircraft for that. One of the big reasons is seasonality here. In the summertime you have 67% of annual traffic and that is growing year over year. What you want is an aircraft that can balance off as much as much as it can the good and the bad. We see, for example, on sectors from Belgrade to Amsterdam, where the A320s are only hauling around 85 passengers in the winter. Now, that's growing and you have to keep growth into perspective but that's still a low number. So what you want to do is get a C-series aircraft which has the lowest trip cost and balance out that seasonality". Air Serbia has ten Airbus A320neos on order which will eventually replace the current jet-engine fleet. The jets have the capacity to seat up to 165 passengers in a two-class configuration. Air Serbia will start taking delivery of the jets in the second half of 2018, with all ten to be with the airline by 2020.