Tajikistan’s Somon Air Orders Two Embraer E190-E2 Jets

Somon Air has signed a memorandum of understanding for the lease of two Embraer E190-E2 jets from Russian lessors, VTB Leasing. The two Embraer E190-E2s will likely replace Somon Air’s two Boeing 737-300s, which are now 26 and 30 years old.

Embraer E190-E2 - PR-ZGQ Farnborough International Airshow 2018, Hampshire
Embraer’s new E-Jet E2 family is proving popular with airlines. Photo: Steve Lynes via Flickr

News emerged on Thursday of a new lease agreement between Tajikistan’s largest private airline, Somon Air, and VTB Leasing, a subsidiary of VTB Group. The deal was announced at VTB Capital’s annual investment forum ‘RUSSIA CALLING!’, which was held in Moscow and attended by Vladimir Putin.

The new lease agreement marks an important step forward for Somon Air, which currently operates a fleet of just six aircraft.

According to Flight Global, Somon Air will sign an agreement in early 2020 for the delivery of the aircraft. Discussing the deal with VTB Leasing, Somon Air’s CEO, Thomas W. Hallam II, said:

“We are glad to cooperate with such a leader in our industry as VTB Leasing Company and express hope for the further development of our partnership, which is aimed, first of all, at improving and the quality of air carriage.”

Somon Air’s fleet

The two leased Embraer E190-E2s will be the first addition of any non-Boeing aircraft to Somon Air’s fleet since the airline commenced operations back in 2008. At the moment the airline operates six aircraft, all of which are Boeing 737 variants.

A Somon Air Boeing 737 in Frankfurt.
Somon Air currently operates an all-Boeing fleet. Photo: Lars Steffens via Flickr

Somon Air’s two Boeing 737-300s, registered EY-545 and EY-555, are both nearing the end of their lifecycle. Alongside these oldies, Somon Air also operates two Boeing 737-800s and two Boeing 737-900s. The two Boeing 737-900s were delivered to the airline just over a year ago.

As well as its small fleet of fixed-wing passenger aircraft, Somon Air also operates an Airbus H125 helicopter, which it received last month. In a similar deal signed earlier this month, Somon Air also agreed to acquire five more helicopters from Airbus. The order includes one Airbus H125, two Airbus H130s and two Airbus H175s.

A sudden pivot away from Boeing, which had been the foundation of Somon Air’s fleet, raises questions about why the airline has opted for Boeing’s competitors for recent orders.

Back in July Somon Air cancelled its lease agreement for a Boeing 737 MAX. Given that the type still hasn’t been certified to fly again, this cancellation was probably a wise decision on Somon Air’s part. Somon Air’s decision to choose two Embraer E190-E2s hints that the Boeing 737 MAX may have been a bit too big anyway.

A Somon Air Boeing 737 at St. Petersburg
Somon Air will lease the two new aircraft from VTB Leasing of Russia. Photo: Igor Dvurekov via Flickr

The Embraer E-Jet E2 family

Brazil’s Embraer specializes mainly in small, single-aisle, medium-to-long-range passenger aircraft. The company’s newest aircraft range, the E-Jet E2 family, entered commercial service for the first time earlier this year. So far the E-Jet-E2 family has proved a popular alternative to the competing products put out by the big two manufacturers.

Just last week KLM expanded an order with Embraer which could end up being worth as much as $2.5 billion. KLM’s order now consists of 21 Embraer E195-E2s with purchase rights for a further 14 units.

A number of other airlines, including Somon Air, have placed big orders for the slightly smaller Embraer E190-E2.

Boeing has been looking to acquire Embraer for a while now, raising concerns that a successful deal could limit competition within the commercial aircraft manufacturing industry even further.

Somon Air has not yet been able to respond to Simple Flying’s request for comment on the deal.