The Serbian government is considering privatising debt-laden national flag-carrier Jat Airways either by selling a controlling stake, or transferring management of the airline to a strategic partner that would receive a share of profits in return for providing funds to invest in new aircraft.

Belgrade has faced repeated calls from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to privatise Jat - which has one of the oldest fleets in Europe - to enable the carrier to make much-needed efficiency savings.

The government of former president Slobodan Milosevic made a downpayment in 1998 of $23.5 million for eight Airbus A319s, but aircraft were never delivered following NATO's 78-day bombing campaign against the country in 1999.

Jat Airways' acting chief executive Nebojsa Starcevic said earlier this month that the airline initially plans to acquire two 70-seat regional airliners to add to its active fleet of Boeing 737-300/400s.

Former Serbian finance minister Bozidar Djelic revealed in 2002 that Jat had still not paid for the nine Boeing 727-200s it acquired between 1974 and 1981. The type was phased out in 2005.

Source: Flight International