Air Serbia will roll out a new-look cabin on board its narrow-body fleet later this summer in order to better adapt to changing market conditions and stronger competition. The move will also allow the airline to add extra capacity without introducing additional aircraft. Speaking to EX-YU Aviation News, Air Serbia's CEO, Dane Kondić, said, "The bigger issue is how do we get better utility out of the Airbus fleet and that is something we will shortly be initiating some changes to because our seat density is very low compared to our competitors, so that is something we will be addressing in the very short-term because that is the first pillar of the review we are going through at the moment". Mr Kondić added, "We are looking at slimmer seats, through which you can get greater density without actually changing so much the seat pitch. We have the older generation seats which are heavy as well. The new ones are not only lighter but allow you to put in more without reducing guest comfort".
According to the airline's CEO, the rollout of the slimmer seats will reduce costs. "It is important because the more seats you have on an aircraft type, the more you can lower what's called your CASK (cost per ASK - available seat kilometres). In the airline industry, the critical metric is one of CASK. You have to get as low as possible a seat cost, offering as many seats as possible. That's why low-cost airlines have so many seats. We are not doing that clearly. What the rest of the on board product will look like is something we are looking at", Mr Kondić noted. He added, "We will evolve our product, there is no question about that. What that evolution will look like is something we are working through at the moment". Despite decreasing frequencies on several routes during the summer when compared to last year, the extra seats on its aircraft will in fact allow the airline to offer the same capacity on many of its routes as in the summer of 2016. The changes will not affect the airline's flagship service to New York, operated by the Airbus A330-200 jet, which boasts a separate product to short haul flights.
Air Serbia's A319 fleet currently features eight seats in business and 120 in economy class, while the A320 sees eight business class seats and 147 in economy. Mr Kondić noted that while Air Serbia has strong support from its two shareholders, Etihad Airways and the Serbian government, both want them to do more. "When we started three and a half years ago the world was a different place than it is today so we are constantly looking whether what we do is relevant. We are coming at the end of the first five-year period so as we go into the next five years of Etihad's involvement in the business we have to review our five-year plan and see whether what we saw back then is still relevant or not. The only relevance is that Etihad is still involved and a committed partner and the government has said that as well. From a management point of view, we are happy to have that stability but both shareholders want more so that's the driver of any change not just in business strategy but in sales strategy and all the things that we do".
EX-YU Aviation News will bring you more of Air Serbia's future plans in the coming weeks and how the carrier plans to tackle some existing issues.