Azimuth Airlines Turns Profit For First Time (With A Sukhoi Superjet Only Fleet)

Azimuth Airlines has turned a profit for the first time since it launched two years ago. This Russian regional airline is the only airline in the world to operate a fleet made up of only Sukhoi Superjet 100 aircraft.

azimuth airlines sukhoi
Azimuth Airlines is the only airline in the world to operate a fleet made up of only Superjet aircraft. Photo: Dmitry Terekhov via Flickr.

What is Azimuth Airlines?

Azimuth Airlines is a Russian regional airline which connects city pairs in Russian, predominately in the south. It has bases in Krasnodar and Rostov-on-Don.

Both Krasnodar and Rostov are niche airports for Azimuth to concentrate on. They have little means of connecting to other regional airports across Russia, except via Moscow which causes a considerable increase in journey time.

The only other European transfer airline to fly to Krasnodar, apart from Turkish Airlines, is Air Serbia. Air Serbia launched flights there this year as part of its push to make Belgrade a new transfer hub in Europe.

According to Russian Aviation Insider, Azimuth anticipates handling 1.2 million passengers this year, which should be almost double what the airline had in 2018.

Turkish Airlines Boeing
Turkish Airlines also serves transfer passengers to and from Krasnodar, but Azimuth is focusing on the regional market only, so they do not compete. Photo: Getty Images

Sukhoi Superjet is making a comeback

Simple Flying previously asked the question – is the SSJ making a comeback? The positive development with Azimuth Airlines might indeed indicate that it is.

The SSJ is an attractive aircraft, with components manufactured in countries including Italy, Switzerland, and the US. It compares well against Airbus’s and Boeing’s narrow-body aircraft.

But since Sukhoi does not produce spare parts for the SSJ, airlines that have ordered the model have found it unreliable. Still, Airbus and Boeing narrow-body aircraft are facing separate issues of their own.

All Boeing 737 MAX aircraft remain grounded, which is causing considerable issues for the airlines that had planned to have it delivered by now. An Irish lessor and Turkish Airlines are even preparing lawsuits against Boeing over the uncertainty this has caused them.

Air Serbia jet at airport gate
Air Serbia is one of the European airlines that could replace its fleet with Sukhoi Superjet aircraft.. Photo: John Taggart via Flickr

Russian Aviation Insider reports that Azimuth Airlines finally reached a profit in the third quarter of 2019 because of “dispatch reliability”, but also state subsidies.

The Russian regional airline now has a load factor approaching 85%. This is an impressive figure for a regional airline, especially since Azimuth is a fairly new brand name.

A strong reason why Azimuth Airlines made a profit is that the airline has now achieved a “99.8% dispatch reliability level”. This prompted the co-owner of Azimuth, Vitaly Vantsev, to exclaim that he is “happy with the Superjet”.

Azimuth has a fleet of 11 SSJ aircraft, all of which are on lease from the GLTK, Russia’s State Transport Leasing Corporation. These lease agreements are where Azimuth is subsidised, as part of the Russian government’s programme of developing regional route networks. As a Russian airline leasing Russian-made aircraft, Azimuth is partially compensated.

The other way in which the Russian government is supporting Azimuth is by exempting the ticket sales on over half of its routes from VAT tax. This is because they are part of the network of 242 regional city pair routes that the Russian government is seeking to develop, in order to aid connectivity in the country.