Red Wings Airlines is readying the induction of the Airbus A220-300 in its operations next year and is working closely with the European OEM to obtain necessary authorizations from Russia’s federal agency for air transport Rosaviatsiya, including the validation of the aircraft’s type certificate and the certification of a training center for A220 crew and MRO capabilities. “There still is a lot of work to do,” Red Wings CEO Evgeny Klyucharev told AIN on the sidelines of the Wings of the Future conference in Moscow. “We are completing the standard procedures,” he said, stressing that “politically there is no issue” with bringing the aircraft type into Russia.
The Moscow Vnukovo-based airline is expecting its first A220 in May, and Klyucharev hopes to showcase the aircraft with Red Wings’s new livery at the Paris Airshow in June.
Red Wings will take delivery of six of the Pratt & Whitney PW1500G-powered twinjets, fitted with 149 seats in an all-economy-class layout, as part of its fleet renewal, which will also see it add four secondhand A321s next year. It also has an order for 16 Irkut MC-21-300s.
The carrier had expected deliveries of the new Russian single-aisle airliner to commence at the end of 2019, but delays in the program are likely to push the entry into service to 2020 or even 2021. “It’s not yet clear when exactly,” Klyucharev said, revealing that Red Wings “most probably will be launch customer due to our extensive experience with Russian-built aircraft.”
Until 2017, Red Wings and its predecessor airline, VARZ-400/Airlines 400, operated only Russian-built aircraft such as the llyushin Il-76, Tupolev Tu-154 and Tu-204, and Sukhoi Superjet 100. That changed last year when it incorporated 12 A320 family aircraft (eight A320s and four A321s) to complement its Tu-204-100B fleet. It still had five Tu-204s in operation this summer, but they all will be phased out because they are not fuel efficient and procuring spare parts has become challenging, according to Klyucharev.
The switch to Western-built aircraft resulted in steep growth. Red Wings expects to carry 2.7 million passengers this year, compared with less than 1 million in 2016, and revenue should total RUB18.5 billion ($281 million), up from RUB6 billion in 2016. “On top of all this growth, we reported a profit of around RUB200 million. We expect the same figure this year,” Klyucharev noted. On the operations side, the carrier’s Airbus narrowbody outperforms its Russian counterpart, with the A320 averaging 3,700 flight hours per year per aircraft compared to around 2,000 hours for the Tu-204s.
Klyucharev said the company expects the A220 to be a “very efficient plane."
"We talk a lot to airBaltic,” he noted. The Latvian carrier served as launch operator of Bombardier’s C Series CS300, which was rebranded as the A220-300 after Airbus took control of the program in July, and now has 13 in its fleet. In May, airBaltic topped up its existing order of 20 A220-300s with an additional 30 examples plus 30 options.
Red Wings also intends to increase its A220 intake. “We most probably will order a further four in 2021. This has been agreed in principle with our shareholder Ilyushin Finance,” said Klyucharev.
IFC was one of the C Series launch customers and in 2013 signed a purchase agreement to acquire 32 CS300s and options for an additional 10. The firm order was quietly downsized, initially to 20 in 2016 and later to 14 after it ceded six examples to Russia’s State Transport Leasing Company (GTLK).
Airbus’s orders and deliveries at the end of October showed 14 A220-300s for ILC and six for GTLK.
The OEM’s overview also showed that no firm orders for the A220 have been signed so far this year.