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An Air Serbia A330-200. Photo: Adam Moreira (AEMoreira042281), CC BY-SA 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

An Air Serbia A330-200. Photo: Adam Moreira (AEMoreira042281), CC BY-SA 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

Air Serbia to Receive Special Livery A330, Replace Existing Widebody

Recently, Air Serbia acquired a second Airbus A330-200 from Aeroflot. The aircraft is currently in Shannon, Ireland, where it will be prepared for delivery to Serbia. The thirteen-year-old Airbus A330-200 will soon hold the registration, YU-ARB, and feature famous Serbian-American inventor Nikola Tesla on the tail of the aircraft.

The concept of having a person on the tail of an airliner is similar to one popularized by Norwegian, which featured prominent historical figures on its Boeing 787 fleet.

 

Air Serbia’s current thirteen-year-old Airbus A330, YU-ARA, will be retired and replaced by the incoming Airbus A330. Rumors point to cheaper leasing terms for newer aircraft as the cause of the acquisition. The Serbian flag carrier renegotiated leasing terms for its aircraft throughout the pandemic, according to EX-YU Aviation.

The government of Serbia looked into acquiring aircraft during the pandemic.  The Ministry for Construction, Transport and Infrastructure said in a statement last May, “We are thinking about starting negotiations for the acquisition of some aircraft. This is the right time because there will never be an opportunity like this where prices on the market will be as low.” 

It is unknown what configuration the aircraft will feature. However, it is expected to feature a new premium cabin, a possible upgrade from its current herringbone configuration. In its current Airbus A330, Air Serbia operates an 18-seat business class in a 1-1-1 configuration and a 236 seat economy class in a 2-4-2 configuration.

A Newfound Expansion

Amid the arrival of its new aircraft, Air Serbia plans to increase its sole long-haul service from New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport to the aptly named Nikola Tesla Airport in Belgrade, Serbia, from twice to three times per week beginning March 22. During the summer, the Belgrade-based airline expects to increase its service to five times a week, nearing pre-COVID-19 capacity.

“The addition of another weekly flight to New York, despite the coronavirus pandemic, is a clear indicator that our transatlantic connection functions well and that it represents one of Air Serbia’s strongest routes,” Air Serbia General Manager of Commercial and Strategy Jiri Marek said. “The United States is a very important market for us, and we are glad to provide continuous and strong flight connectivity, not just for Serbia, but also the broader region.”

In September 2020, the airline had the highest load factor at JFK’s Terminal 4, filling 67% of its total available seats. With these numbers, Air Serbia is citing higher demand as the reason for its long-haul expansion.

Additionally, there have been rumors of Air Serbia adding a flight between Belgrade and Toronto. In October 2018, the two countries signed an Air Service Agreement, paving the way for discussions of the route. In October 2020, Serbia’s Prime Minister met with the Canadian Ambassador to Serbia to discuss flights from Toronto to Belgrade. Unfortunately, as the incoming Airbus A330 is destined to replace its first A330 and thus leave the airline with only one long-haul aircraft, these flights are unlikely to materialize.

For its regional network, Air Serbia has restructured its narrowbody fleet, with the removal of its remaining Boeing 737-300s and one Airbus A320. Meanwhile, Air Serbia added two Airbus A319s to reach a total of 11 of the aircraft type. At its hub in Belgrade, Air Serbia has grown its market share to 50.2% on the back of new flights to Geneva and Oslo. With its ATR and Airbus narrowbody fleets, the airline can feed Balkan and European destinations into its network.

Winston Shek
Winston Shek
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