Transaero, Russia’s second-largest airline, has agreed to buy four Airbus A380 jets, becoming the first carrier in the ex-Soviet Union and Eastern Europe to order the world’s biggest passenger jet.
Under a preliminary deal signed between European plane maker Airbus and Transaero earlier Friday, the Russian carrier will purchase four superjumbo jets to expand a fleet that until now has mostly consisted of Boeing aircraft, Transaero spokesman Konstantin Tyurkin told AFP.
He added that the deliveries would not be made before late 2015. Tyurkin declined to put a price tag on the contract but said the catalogue price of four aircraft was $1.5 billion (1.05 billion euros).
“We definitely see market potential for the A380 in Russia,” Airbus quoted John Leahy, Airbus Chief Operating Officer for customers as saying.
“Passenger traffic in this region is expected to increase at an average rate of 5.6 per cent per year over the next 20 years.”
Transaero Airlines chief executive Olga Pleshakova added: “Our airline has accumulated vast experience in operating long-range wide-body aircraft seating 500 amd more passengers and is ready to offer Russian passengers the world’s largest airplane.”
The Russian airline said in August it had signed a preliminary agreement with Airbus, which is owned by European group EADS, to buy eight smaller A320neo planes with the option of acquiring four more jets.
Under that deal, Airbus will supply the planes starting from 2017 over a period of two years, said Transaero, adding that the catalogue price of eight jets was $712 million.
Transaero, which began flying in 1991, said in September it had a fleet of 70 planes, mostly Boeing jets.
By comparison, Russia’s flagship carrier Aeroflot has 109 planes, mostly Airbus A320 and A330 and Boeing 767.
Boris Rybak, director of aviation consultancy Infomost, said Transaero has one of the world’s largest long-haul fleets so the purchase dovetailed with its strategy, adding that Aeroflot was also mulling the purchase of the A380.
“I hope it will follow suit,” Rybak told AFP.
Over the past months Russia has struggled with a spate of crashes of Soviet-designed planes operated by smaller, regional carriers which often cut corners on safety.
Two accidents involving Tu-134 and An-24 jets killed more than 50 people this past summer and prompted President Dmitry Medvedev to call for those aircraft to be retired and smaller airlines closed.