Peruvian Airlines Turns to Russian Aircraft for Fleet Expansion

The MC-21 completed its maiden flight on Sunday, May 28, 2017 (Photo: Irkut Corporation)

While H.E. Akbar Al Baker was joyfully being Farnborough’s center of attention with Qatar’s impressive aircraft showcase and JetBlue’s founder David Neeleman surprising spectators as his new startup announced an order for 60 A220’s, one airline was quietly making moves with Russian aircraft manufacturers. Peruvian Airlines met with Sukhoi Civil Aircraft representatives, putting their eyes on a couple of Russian airliners as possible candidates to join their fleet.

The airline’s founder, Cesar Cataño, signed an agreement of intent with Sukhoi’s president, Alexander Rubtsov, to acquire the 10 Sukhoi Superjet (SSJ) 100 and 10 MC-21 passenger jets. The Peruvian carrier attributes its decision to “the bright performance of the SSJ100 with other airlines in Latin America,” probably referring to Interjet as it is the only carrier in the region operating this model.

The Mexican airline operates 22 SSJ100’s and has eight more on the way, although its reliability has come into question in recent months by media reports claiming that the airline is scrapping the aircraft for parts. The aircraft has been commended from passengers and crews alike for its ample and comfortable cabin, with a generous seat pitch of 34 inches in a 2-3 configuration.

The Sukhoi Superjet 100 was designed to compete with the Embraer E-190/195 and Bombardier’s CSeries project, claiming to have a lower purchasing list price at US$35 million per unit and lower operating costs. However, this has to be taken with a pinch of salt, taking into account that the aircraft was launched almost 10 years ago.

In the meantime, both Bombardier, now with Airbus taking over the CSeries, and Embraer have developed their aircraft with more fuel-efficient engines and a high use of composite materials, making the A220 and the newly launched E190-E2 more operationally efficient than the Superjet. Additionally, since the aircraft is mostly used in Europe and Asia, maintenance and parts are sparse in South America, as Interjet experienced.

On the other end of the spectrum, Peruvian Airlines is looking to get some MC-21’s, comparable to the Airbus A320/A321, to operate on its more transited routes. The 150-180 seater will be launched sometime in 2019 and will feature carbon fiber wings and the new Pratt & Whitney Geared engines, which are used in the A220 and the A320neo. It has already had a big response from the market and is expected to be a direct competitor for the Boeing 737 MAX 7/8 and the Airbus 320neo.

Peruvian Airlines is the second largest airline in Peru’s domestic market behind the Peruvian subsidiary of LATAM Airlines and holds 15 percent of the shares in the market. The airline currently operates a fleet of 12 secondhand Boeing 737’s made up by members of the -200, -300, -400 and -500 variants to eight domestic destinations and one international destination in Bolivia.

Although the airline has not been particularly open regarding what it will do with its newest acquisitions, Cataño has confirmed that these aircraft will be used in a new subsidiary that is planned to be established in the 2020s. The subsidiary will bear the name of defunct Peruvian flag carrier Aero Peru and plans to fly to regional and secondary airports across the country.

Peruvian hasn’t specified whether the MC-21s will replace some of its aging 737s. However, that wouldn’t be a surprise.

Jose Antonio Payet

Jose Antonio Payet

As a geography nerd, Jose has always been fascinated by the complexities of the airline industry and its ability to bring the world closer together. Born and raised in Peru, now studying in the UK. he has travelled around America, Europe and South East Asia. His favorite aircraft is the Boeing 767-300, which he has flown many times during his childhood; although now the A350 is slowly growing up on him.
Jose Antonio Payet