The Armavia airline elaborated Thursday on its decision to abandon two Russian-made Sukhoi SuperJet 100 aircraft, saying that they have proved to be too costly and not reliable enough.
The company also said that from now on it will expand its fleet with mainly U.S. and European passenger jets.
“It’s not that the [new Russian plane] is very bad,” Armavia’s director general, Norayr Beluyan, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) “But for a new aircraft, it breaks down and requires repairs too often.” The cost of those repairs is extremely high, he said.
Armavia was due to buy two newly designed SuperJets in accordance with an agreement with the Russian aviation group Sukhoi signed in Yerevan in 2007. One of those planes went into service in April 2011, making Armavia the first airline to use a SuperJet for commercial flights. Earlier this year, the plane was grounded due to technical reasons before being sent to Russia for urgent repairs.
Armavia said on Monday that it has decided to rescind the 2007 deal and will therefore return the plane to its Russian manufacturer. The Armenian carrier thus also confirmed that it will not take delivery of the second SuperJet.
“We told [the Russians] after negotiations that we are abandoning their aircraft because they are not economical,” said Beluyan. “Their price is comparable to that of Airbuses and Boeings but the cost of exploitation is not.”
“That is, the aircraft is newly designed but breaks down very quickly and is grounded for a long time. Its spare parts are very expensive. There are parts that are three or four times more expensive that those of Boeings and Airbuses,” he explained.
“They admit that those prices are extremely high,” added the Armavia chief. “They had promised to negotiate with Italians and lower the prices. But that didn’t happen and the prices remained the same.”
The Russian aviation group Sukhoi developed the 100-seat SupeJet jointly with an Italian company in 2000-2004 as part of Russia’s efforts to revive its aerospace industry hit hard by the collapse of the Soviet Union. The project was dealt a massive blow in May when a SuperJet crashed during a promotional flight in Indonesia, killing all 45 people on board.
According to Beluyan, Armavia will “put the emphasis” on Western-made airliners in expanding its operations. He said the company owned by Russian-Armenian Mikhail Bagdasarov is now negotiating on the purchase of one Boeing and two Airbus planes.
Armavia already has three Boeing 737s and two Airbus A320s. Its relatively modest fleet also consists of three Bombardier CRJ-200LR and one Yakovlev-42 jets.
The national airline currently flies to more than 40 destinations in Europe, the former Soviet Union and the Middle East. It is often criticized by Armenians for what they see as disproportionately high ticket prices and inadequate quality of service.