In the early morning hours of the 31. of July, 1985., after a 12000km journey from Seattle, a curious new arrival lands at Nikola Tesla Intl. Airport in Belgrade (LYBE), capital of the former country that was Yugoslavia, (SFRY).
The aircraft in question - a brand new, state of the art, Boeing B737-300, reg. YU-AND, is in fact the first of its kind in Europe, and is destined for the then thriving national carrier: JAT - Yugoslav Airlines
1. One of JATs 733s in the original paint scheme, 2. AND, on the flight test line in Seattle
Within the ensuing 35 years, a lot to say the least has happened. Both to the aircraft itself, and its “home”. Without getting too off track - thriving initial years of service in the latter half of the 80s, a very abrupt stagantion, civil war and subsequent breakup of the SFRY, years of charter operations for various airlines, various escapes from Yugoslavia for storage in other airports to avoid damage during the conflicts, alleged illicit use for shuttling money out of the war torn state (along with the 737s older brother, the 727), years of being mothballed, and a subsequent return to its home airport, in the beggining of the 21. century. A new chapter begins.
JAT, in fact, continues operations as sanctions and restrictions are lifted in the early 2000s on what is now the State of union of Serbia and Montenegro. AND, and its 9 other “sister ships” lumber on in service with JAT. Years go by, deabt piles up, and by 2013 the situation is critical. JAT is reportedly up to 400 million dollars in debt, its fleet is aging, time is running out.
In 2013, the Serbian Government signs a deal with Etihad, which sees it taking over a 49% stake in JAT, and working on a rebrand and attempted rescue of the airline foreshadowing anyone?. Air Serbia (ASL) is born. It inherits the JAT fleet, among it the 10 strong B733 fleet, and 6 ATR72s.
The new managment is soon hit with the arrival of newer A319s and A320s that were due to replace the 733s. One by one, they start getting parked. 6 of them are retired and parted out and the other 4, AND among them, remained in operation. They were also spun off into “Aviolet”, ASLs charter flight subsidiary. In 2018 one was withdrawn and mothballed for parts, and in late 2018 another was put in longer term storage. They kept suplementing the operations of ASL, and infamosly saving ASL at times of need when the Airbus fleet broke down, and when the summer charter season hits its peaks.
A 733, still in the older JAT colours, approaches Skhiatos
The last time this happened was actually in 2019, something i can personally atest to, having experienced the events. From mid May to the end of August, the Airbus fleet had frequent mechanical issues, which led to the 733s having likely the highest utilisation rate they had ever experienced. One of the planes was even brought back into service to help maintain the network!
The remaining 3 planes were slated ambiguously for a 2021-2023 retirement (reportedly). And, as many of you have probably heard all to many times in the last year, Covid was the last straw for the 733s.
AND was placed in storage on the 12. of March 2020. Its two sister ships YU-ANI and YU-ANK remained sporadically flying throught the year, and then, in the early morning hours of 18FEB, rumors started circulating of the retirement, and they were later confirmed by ASL to news sites. The last flights were flown no more than 10 days ago, to Stockholm and Frankfurt respectively.
Other info at this moment isnt available. The future of the jets is unkown. The local aviator community is hopefull that AND will be repainted into its orignial paint scheme, and transfered to the nearby Museum of Aviation, though we remain pessimistic, since a repaint would cost a lot of money, and its doubtfull if there will be a will to invest that much by ASL and the crony government.
I thank you for reading this far, and suggest you give the bellow linked article a read, as its chalk full of other info on JATs 737s, it heavily inspired this post, and it really is an intresting read!
*most pictures were lifted from EXYU Av. News
The bellow two links are: 1. The original insta post that broke the rumors, 2. The local aviation news site that got direct confirmation from ASL (its written in Serbian so idk how usefull it will be to you guys lol)
I will update this topic bellow if any new info is made available!
Edit1: The news has also now been confirmed by EXYU Aviation news. Not much development other than that :(