Russia’s Red Wings resumes Tupolev Tu-204 operations
Bringing back Russian-made VIP-configured jet doesn’t interfere with plans for adding six more Airbus A321s this year
Effectively owned by the parent of Russian aircraft industry, Red Wings Airlines resumed operations of Russian-made aircraft– the carrier’s fleet was joined by a VIP-configured Tupolev Tu-204-100V, previously managed by business jet operator RusJet.
Red Wings, which started out in 2007 as loyal customer of locally-made aircraft completely abandoned the idea later on for commercial reasons. Current return to Tu-204 is dictated by the interests of the airline’s shareholder Ilyushin Finance Co leasing company, part of UAC, as Russian aerospace industry stakeholders may have their own view on the airline’s development prospects. However as for now Red Wings does not plan to cancel its existing strategy utilizing all-Airbus commercial fleet, and is still counting on bringing in six more A320 family aircraft this year.
Since state-owned industrial giant Rostec gained control over United Aircraft Corporation (UAC) in 2018, Red Wings has been presented with various development scenarios involving operation of Russian-made aircraft. In one instance, the airline started operating Superjet 100s, but had to abandon the plan in 2016 claiming high operating costs and lack of routes where 100-seat aircraft would be suitable.
History of Red Wings’ Tu-204 operations stretches over more than a decade – from 2007 until the limited airframe life became a major obstacle in the autumn of 2018.
Red Wings also has a firm order of 16 of the Russian next-generation MC-21 narrow-body airliners produced by its parent, UAC.
AIRCRAFT FROM RUSJET
Red Wings has received its latest Tu-204-100V from its previous operator RusJet. This aircraft with registration number RA-64014 entered service with the Russian business aviation specialist in early 2018 and is still promoted on its website. “After an overhaul in 2017 the aircraft was outfitted with a spacious VIP cabin. Designed initially for 210 passengers, the cabin offers comfortable and spacious room for 30 people, including a fully functional bedroom with a king-size bed,” the description on the website reads. The aircraft was operated primarily in the interests of high-rank executives of the aerospace industry. Now the operator continues to fly a VIP-configured Superjet 100 with registration RA-89053, also used by the industry bosses. RusJet refuse to comment whether this aircraft would be transferred to Red Wings as well.
RED WINGS FLIES WITH A320
According to Russian authority Rosaviatsiya, several Tu-204 airliners are still registered with Red Wings, but all of them are grounded and stored. Although the stakeholders increase their push on the airline, it continues to grow its fleet of Airbus A320 family and expects to add six more A321s before the end of this year. The first of the batch is expected to arrive in the spring. By the end of 2020 Red Wings will have four A320s and 16 A321s. It is certainly Airbus that the airline owes its operational performance improvement to. It now ranks among Russia’s 10 largest passenger carriers. Further fleet expansion is expected to boost Red Wings’ traffic figures this year. In 2019 the airline carried 3.071 million passengers (a 17.1 improvement on 2018), an all-time record for the airline’s 20-year history. In 2020 the projected traffic growth may reach 25 per cent. Red Wings still primarily concentrates on developing business from Moscow’s Domodedovo, but this year will also pay special attention to Pulkovo in St. Petersburg, and as always base several aircraft in country’s prime Black Sea leisure destination resorts Sochi and Simferopol for the high summer season.
By Artyom Korenyako
Russian Aviation Insider
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