Montenegro Airlines (YM, Podgorica) intends to replace its Fokker 100s, with B737-7s being the most likely replacement, Vijesti.me reported.

The Montenegrin carrier plans to retire the two remaining Fokker 100s in 2019 and 2020, respectively. Replacement options include either further Embraers, B737-700s or B737 MAX 7s which would supplement the airline's existing fleet of three EMB-195. According to Vijesti.me, the latter choice is the most likely, as the airline is seeking to significantly increase capacity.

The airline's Fokker 100s can seat up to 109 passengers each and are both nearly 27-year-old. The company's E195s are fitted with 116 passenger seats, while B737 MAX 7s will be capable of carrying up to 172 passengers in a dense single-class layout.

Such an increase in capacity could help the airline in the busy summer season. The current fleet is too small and fuel-inefficient to meet the growing demand from tour operators on routes to Montenegro, Vijesti.me reported. Thanks to their longer range, the new planes would also allow the carrier to connect Podgorica with more markets, including destinations in Asia.

If confirmed, Montenegro Airlines could become the first European airline to operate the smallest variant of the MAX.

According to Vijesti.me, the jets would be leased from Air Lease Corporation. The top management of the leasing company visited Podgorica this summer to discuss the deal, the online newspaper reported.

New jets will add USD1.5-2 million each to operational costs over a year, but the airline is positive this can be made up for with lower costs per seat and higher utilisation. The airline is struggling to return to profitability - in 2015 and 2016 alone it has lost over USD23 million net, according to the ch-aviation airlines module. Flightglobal reported citing CEO Zivko Banjevic, that Montenegro Airlines "struggled to survive" the summer of 2017.

Independently from the longer-term plans of fleet replacement, Montenegro Airlines plans to lease in narrow-body capacity over 140 seats, most likely a B737, next summer. The aircraft will join the airline's fleet for six months, Banjevic told Flightglobal.