Russian low-cost sensation Pobeda has officially canceled its firm contracts for 20 Boeing 737 MAX jets, the carrier announced at the beginning of the week. The airline cited the lack of Russian recertification of the type as the main reason for the cancelations. Furthermore, it stated it had incurred no penalties from Boeing as a result.
The 20 aircraft were set to be delivered to the state-owned LCC branch of the Aeroflot Group via two different lessors. Fifteen were due to arrive via leasing giant GECAS and another five courtesy of SMBC. Pobeda’s Chief Executive Officer, Andrei Kalmykov, confirmed the decision to Russian news agency TASS on Monday.
“Yes, we have waived solid contracts for Boeing 737 MAX without any penalty,” the CEO said in a brief statement, referring to the order for 20 MAX 8s.
In 2018, the Aeroflot Group considered as many as 30 Boeing 737 MAXs for its budget subsidiary but settled for a somewhat stripped-down order in 2019.
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No shortage of fleet expansion
Pobeda, founded in 2014 following the failed attempt of budget airline Dobrolet, currently operates a fleet of 44 Boeing 737-800s. It is due to receive another 47. However, these are not orders. Rather, they will come from parent carrier Aeroflot and sister airline Rossiya as the Group shuffles its overall fleet. The jig is part of a strategy to shore up Pobeda’s growth, which, at least up until February 2020, was threatened by the long-standing grounding to the 737 MAX.
Russian recertification ‘within coming months’
While many countries and aviation agencies have reaffirmed their faith in the safety of the MAX by now, Russia’s Rosaviatsia is yet to give the aircraft the green light. Meanwhile, according to Russian Aviation, the President of Boeing in Russia and the CIS countries, Sergey Kravchenko, believes recertification will be awarded within the coming months.
The success of Pobeda, like that of other LCCs with the same profile, is derived partly from its single-type fleet model. As such, it is difficult to imagine the MAXs were canceled in favor of a future MC-21-300 order. However, as it is taking Boeing jets off of Rossiya, which is set to focus on Russian-built aircraft in the future, there might still be some strategy involved in the decision.
Current state of the MAX orderbook
Prior to the MAX’s flight ban in March 2019, Boeing had received 5,211 orders for the type. This number dropped to 4,546 in 2020. At the end of July this year, Boeing received 5,894 orders for the MAX. Deducting the 20 meant for Pobeda would land the figure at 5,874.
However, Alaska Airlines announced earlier this week it would be converting 12 options for the plane into firm orders. And earlier this month, São Paulo-based GOL Linhas Aéreas Inteligentes (GOL) said it would be taking an additional 28 MAX 8s. This means the manufacturer has now well recuperated the losses in orders it suffered in 2019 and 2020 as a result of two deadly crashes and the subsequent grounding of the plane.