Yakutia Airlines is gearing up to start commercial operation of its fourth Boeing 737-800. The aircraft, with tail number VP-BVE (s.n. 29889/1153, produced in 2000), arrived at Yakutsk at the end of April, and it will be operated under an operational lease agreement with BBAM. The aircraft previously flew for Air China.
“The aircraft’s cabin configuration is in line with the other Boeing 737-800s in our fleet. It is equipped with eight seats in business class and 162 in economy class. The aircraft will be based in Yakutsk,” an airline’s spokesperson told Russian Aviation Insider.
The VP-BVE features blended split-scimitar type winglets. “This is the first aircraft with such winglets in any Russian airline’s fleet. In terms of fuel savings, we expect the aircraft to be 2.5% more efficient than the other three Boeing 737-800s we operate,” Yakutia’s representative pointed out.
The current leasing deal is the first one Yakutia signed after it went through a fleet optimization program, under which the carrier returned five Boeing 737-700s to lessors, in addition to the same number of Boeing 757-200s. Early in 2015, the carrier said it would avoid leasing aircraft to expand its fleet. Last summer, Yakutia announced its intentions to purchase a Boeing 737-800 and even received the regional administration’s financial support for the case. However, the funds ended up covering the airline’s outstanding debts, safety and security issues, and other burning expenses.
At the end of March, Yakutia’s first deputy director, Pavel Udod, explained to Russian Aviation Insider that the airline is waiting for more favorable conditions to purchase aircraft.
“Indeed, funds last year were allocated for purposes of purchasing aircraft. But we did not state that we wanted to abandon the leasing scheme altogether. We were considering a hybrid model,” the top-manager explained. “According to our plans, we would own two or three aircraft, and we’ll use them as assets, but the rest of the fleet will still be leased. When we looked closely at each particular period in time, especially the autumn of last year when the ruble exchange rate plunged, we came to the conclusion that purchasing an aircraft would not be a wise decision. So we decided to put it on hold. But the issue is not off the table. We are still considering a direct purchase, but to make it a reality we require several factors, such as a good offer and a healthy market,” Udod speculated.
According to Russian Federal Air Transport Agency data, apart from the three Boeing 737-800s, Yakutia operates two SSJ 100s, two Bombardier Q300s and three Q400s, five Antonov An-24s, and a cargo Boeing 757-200. In the first quarter of 2016, the airline carried 99,000 passengers, down 18% from the same period last year.
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