Red Wings may be Russia’s next Boeing 777 operator

The all-narrow-body fleet operator owned by the parent of Russia’s aircraft industry is looking to lease its first wide-body aircraft

Red Wings Throughout 2019, Red Wings grew its business by utilising the Airbus A320 family and is expecting the delivery of a further six A321s this year (Evgeny Dubovitsky)

Despite the turbulence currently facing the air travel industry in the wake of the Coronavirus spread, Russia’s Red Wings is pressing ahead with ambitious growth plans. The targeted traffic growth of the United Aircraft Corporation (UAC)-owned airline is expected to stem from adding six Airbus A321s during the course of this year. Perhaps even more surprising though is the all-narrow-body airline’s consideration of becoming an operator of wide-body aircraft by bringing back to Russia the three Boeing 777-200ERs previously operated by IrAero, before it had to abandon its unsuccessful China travel project in late 2019.

Red Wings’ interest in the wide-body aircraft was first broached at the end of 2019, but it appeared highly unlikely that the UAC-controlled airline would indeed adopt the three B777s that had just been retired by IrAero following an unsuccessful business venture. The three aircraft, with registration numbers VP-BMR, VP-BSJ and VP-BLI, which were initially brought to Russia by the now defunct VIM Airlines, are owned, it is believed, by small Russian bank Solidarnost, itself a big creditor of IrAero.

But Red Wings posted a Boeing 777 pilot recruitment advertisement on March 3, and although its general director Evgeny Klyucharev confirmed to Russian Aviation Insider that the same three aircraft are expected to join the Red Wings fleet, he nevertheless chose not to provide detailed information on the project.

According to Klyucharev, the three B777s will enter commercial service with Red Wings in the second quarter of this year, in advance of the summer season, but the route network for the first wide-bodies in the airline’s 21-year history remains vague. “They may be utilised both on international routes and inside Russia,” Klyucharev speculates. “We’ll watch the situation develop,” he adds.

“We are not crazy, and we are taking these aircraft on special terms, which are not to be publicised at the moment. Just trust in our common sense,” he pleads.

Red Wings enjoyed a significant improvement in its operational performance last year and joined Russia’s top-10 airline league, ranking ninth. In January its traffic slipped somewhat by 1.5 per cent year-on-year to 178,900 passengers. The airline has not yet publicised its financial performance reports.

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