Jat Airways growing in spite of financial troubles; Serbian investors soon to the rescue?
Although attempts by the Serbian government to part-privatise Belgrade (BEG) based Jat Airways failed last year, after talks with foreign investors such as Turkish Airlines and Baltic Aviation Systems fell though, government officials have confirmed current talks with a consortium of Serbian business people. While the potential new owners’ strategy for the airline is unknown, business continues as usual at the Serbian national carrier, which plans for expansion this coming summer season.
Although the airline has experienced an uneven development in the number of passengers transported over the last decade, with a fall of 19% in 2009, the development in the last two years has been more positive and the traffic drop regained. In 2011, the airline presented record figures after a year-on-year growth of 16%. The load factor is also on a steady rise; at 69.4%, it is an improvement of almost 10 percentage points over 2010.
The airline’s figures for January this year continue positively. Passenger numbers are up by 8%, in spite of a 14% capacity reduction, leading to a further load factor increase. The airline’s planned summer schedule is, however, an increase in capacity on last year, with scheduled seats offered in June 2012 planned to be as much as 23% higher than the same month last year. The summer is also the airline’s dominant season, with more than twice as many passengers transported during the July and August peak months than during the January and February low-season.
Growth across country markets
With its ageing fleet of 10 737-300s and four ATR72s, Jat Airways is planning to grow in all of its top six country markets this coming April. In the top 11, only three markets see capacity left unchanged (Austria, France and the Netherlands) and in only one (Macedonia) is capacity shrunk.
The fastest-growing market, Switzerland, is expanding thanks to a frequency increase on the airline’s Zurich route. Whereas the airline operated the route from Belgrade 10 times weekly between July and September last year, the three weekly frequencies on top of the year-round daily operation are this year extended to the whole summer scheduling season.
Dubai flights relaunched, Tripoli shelved; Croatia boost in summer
Of Jat’s daily flight to Larnaca in Cyprus, two flights a week continue to Tel Aviv in Israel and three to Dubai; a route that is resumed at the start of the summer season. The airline will notably now face competition from flydubai’s non-stop services on the route.
The planned resumption of another route has, however, been shelved. The route to Tripoli in Libya, which was supposed to operate via Malta on the outbound sector, will instead be a twice-weekly non-stop Malta service launching on 18 June. During the summer peak season, Jat will also complement its nine weekly London Heathrow operations with an additional three weekly flights to London Gatwick.
After last summer’s historical relaunch of flights to Dubrovnik, Jat Airways will be expanding further to the Croatian coast this summer. From the beginning of June, the airline relaunches flights to Pula, which were operated in 2008-2009, and a month later, flights to Split resume after a 20-year hiatus. Each of the new Croatian routes will be operated twice-weekly with ATR72s.