Archangelsk-based Russian regional airline Smartavia is set to become an all-Airbus operator within a couple of years. Throwing its wing in the ring for the low-cost share of the Russian air travel market, the airline says it could take as many as 40 brand new A320neos by 2025.
Transition to all-Airbus budget airline
Former Soviet carrier turned private regional airline Smartavia is taking up the fight against successful compatriot, state-owned Pobeda, as a dedicated low-cost airline. According to a five-year strategy, to achieve its goal the airline is looking to acquire up to 40 new Airbus A320neos by 2025.
It has already taken delivery of three of the type. The first, registered as VP-BOS, arrived at the airline’s hub at Moscow Domodedovo in mid-April. Just as the A321neo that arrived with Icelandic startup carrier PLAY during the week, the three A320neos currently in Smartavia’s fleet come from failed Mexican low-cost carrier Interjet. The airline is expecting a further two second-hand of the type before the end of 2021.
Meanwhile, according to the Russian aviation media portal ATO Telegraph, the A320neo aircraft Smartaiva is looking to add over the next few years will all be brand sparkling new and straight out of the factory.
There are yet to be any official details of deals for financing, but the airline has reportedly signed with leasing companies for seven of the aircraft to be delivered in 2022. It has also committed to another eight for 2023.
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Could the MAX make an appearance?
Smartavia was known as Nordavia until 2019. Between 2004 and 2009, it was called Aeroflot Nord. Before that, since its inception in 1964, the carrier went under the name of AVL – Archangelsk Airlines. Its headquarters are located in Archangelsk, but its two bases are located at Moscow’s Domodedovo and St Petersburg’s Pulkovo Airport.
The airline is currently operating the aforementioned three A320neos, along with three Boeing 737-700s and nine 737-800s with an average fleet age of close to 12 years. The 737s are leased until 2023 and will be retired from the fleet when their contract is up. However, the airline confirmed to Russian Aviation Insider that it is not excluding bringing back Boeing planes further down the line in the form of the 737 MAX.
The new low-cost strategy has seen the carrier agree with airport operators for turn-around times of 40 minutes. It is hoping this will lead to a high utilization rate of up to 5,000 hours per year.
Given the circumstances, about 95% of the airline’s operations are currently domestic. However, as state-owned budget airline, Pobeda, has shown over the past year, this is no obstacle to growth. Smartavia is looking to expand its presence in the northwest, in the south of Russia, and in Moscow. The airline currently has a load factor of 86%, while Pobeda’s has returned to 99%.
Simple Flying has reached out to Smartavia for more details on what the airline’s A320neo family future will look like but was yet to receive any response at the time of publication.