Ural Airlines (U6), Russia’s fifth largest airline, is pressing ahead with the planned December delivery of the first of 10 Boeing 737 MAXs it has on order. The airline is also to continue bringing in additional European-built, narrow-body aircraft to its currently all-Airbus fleet.
The news comes as Sergey Skuratov, Ural’s general director, dismissed any possibility of abandoning the carrier’s Boeing 737 MAX purchase plans following the type’s current worldwide grounding. “The Boeing [737MAX] is able to fly for seven hours and 45 minutes, non-stop and with a full load. [For us] that means [being able to reach] the entire south of China, India, Japan and Vladivostok,” he stresses, noting that the long-haul flights are of particular importance to the Yekaterinburg-based airline.
The head of U6 has also expressed confidence that the American manufacturer will fix the type’s software flaws and that Ural is still expecting the 14 Boeing 737 MAX-8s for which it signed an operational lease agreement in the spring of 2018. It holds a firm order for 10 aircraft and an option for a further four. In the original schedule the first deliveries were due to occur in October of this year and the airline was expecting to have two MAXs in its fleet before the end of 2019. However, after the two tragic crashes, this timetable was interrupted by the worldwide suspension of the type.
Meanwhile, the delivery schedule for five new Airbus A320neos has also slipped from April to the now expected first delivery date of August, followed by two more A320neos and two A321neos later in the year. Some issues with the type’s LEAP-1A engines, produced by CFM International, have been blamed for the delay.
Ural Airlines is keen to expand its fleet by 50 per cent by 2025, bringing it up to 70 aircraft, including the new A320neos and Boeing 737 MAXs. To support this expansion it is boosting its aircraft maintenance capabilities by launching a second line of dedicated technical facilities for Boeing and Airbus aircraft.
This year the airline is targeting a boost to its financial performance, with TASS newswire quoting Skuratov as saying that the airline may generate up to one billion roubles in revenue this year, doubling its 2018 figure. The recently imposed ban on flights to Georgia will cause “some losses” to Ural Airlines, he admitted, but he remains hopeful that the government will provide compensation. The Russian airline operated 41 weekly flights to Georgia before Russia suspended air links with the Caucasus republic on May 8.
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