Cubana’s Ilyushin Il-96-300 Makes A Comeback!

Cubana’s Ilyushin Il-96-300 Makes A Comeback!

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Arguably the world’s single most interesting commercial aircraft has returned to Cuba from Russia, after some heavy maintenance.

The basics of Cubana’s very Russian fleet

Cuban flag carrier Cubana has historically flown Russian-built aircraft, given sanctions in place against the country, preventing the purchase of Airbus and Boeing jets with parts that were manufactured in the United States. As a result, the airline has largely purchased planes from Russian aircraft manufacturers, including Antonov, Ilyushin, and Tupolev.

Unfortunately for the past few years, Cubana’s fleet has been almost non-existent, with all Russian-built aircraft grounded for an extended period of time. This included Antonov An-158s, Ilyushin Il-96-300s, and Tupolev Tu-204-100s.

In the past, Cubana has been able to do maintenance of its own aircraft in Cuba. However, that apparently hasn’t been possible in recent years. I’m not sure why, exactly, since you’d think there wouldn’t be any restrictions in place on shipping parts between Russia and Cuba. I’m not sure if this was a financial issue, or what. Fortunately the two countries reached an agreement on maintenance, so Cubana’s aircraft are now having work done in Russia.

The most interesting of the above planes is the Ilyushin Il-96-300s — think of it as the Emirates A380 of Cuba, as it’s capable of operating long haul flights, and this aircraft used to operate to Argentina and Spain. However, with the carrier’s fleet not operational, Cubana has been flying with leased aircraft lately. That’s finally starting to change.

Cubana Ilyushin Il-96-300

Cubana Ilyushin Il-96-300 returns to Cuba!

It’s a big week for Cubana. The Ilyushin Il-96-300 with the registration code CU-T1250 has been in Russia for the past 14 months having maintenance work performed. The maintenance reportedly focused on navigation, safety systems, and general comfort improvements. I’m curious if any changes were made to the cabin.

That work has finally been completed, so the plane has flown back to Cuba. On December 3, 2023, the plane flew from Moscow (ZIA) to Havana (HAV) with a refueling stop in Gander (YQX). The airline held a water cannon salute for the aircraft, and welcomed the plane with “great joy” after the plane “received regular maintenance in the sister Russian Federation.”

Cubana Ilyushin Il-96-300 arriving in Havana

The jet features 262 seats, including 18 business class seats and 244 economy class seats. The plane is only 18 years old, as the airline took delivery of the plane in 2005. It remains to be seen when exactly Cubana will put the aircraft back into commercial service.

This is the only Ilyushin Il-96-300 operated by an airline, as the aircraft is otherwise primarily used by the Russian government.

This is the second Russian jet that Cubana has put back into service recently. In September 2023, the Tupolev Tu-204-100 with the registration code CU-T1702 also resumed flying for Cubana. In recent days, that aircraft has flown to Moscow and Tehran. Sounds legit.

Cubana Tupolev Tu-204-100

Bottom line

The Cubana Ilyushin Il-96-300 is making a comeback, after not having flown any passengers for years. Cubana is the only airline in the world to fly this plane, and after over a year of maintenance in Russia, the plane has returned to Cuba. I’m curious to see when this plane reenters service…

What do you make of Cubana’s Ilyushin Il-96-300?

Conversations (27)
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  1. Charlie Diamond

    How come this flying pile of junk is allowed to land in the EU?!

  2. iamhere Guest

    Keep in mind that the US is one of the few countries without diplomatic relations with Cuba

    1. XPL Diamond

      "Cuba and the United States restored diplomatic relations on July 20, 2015"
      Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cuba%E2%80%93United_States_relations

  3. Hoosier in Paradise Member

    Thanks very much for the recent pictures of the IL-96-300 (think B767) and the TU-204 (think B757). It brought back memories of flying between CUN and HAV in the late 90's on TU-154s (think B727).

  4. vlcnc Guest

    The "sounds legit" comment in the article is unnecessarily bitchy and chauvinistic. Cuba is under uncalled for sanctions, that are debilitating and it is a daily struggle to survive - it's a miracle what they managed to achieve. As it is under sanctions, it is naturally going to look to countries like Russia and Iran for assistance because who else is there to help it to survive??

    1. Sylvester Alelele Guest

      The only thing that Sanctions have achieved is that they have awakened 3 nearly dead airframe builders in Tupolev, Yakovlev and Ilyushin snd they are going to sell a couple of hundred units each and they will surely come out with competitive and updated designs. China.and several other nations are pursuing active projects as well!

  5. crosscourt Guest

    "....think of it as the Emirates A380 of Cuba...." Err, really? Would there be showers on board, or a lounge? :)

    1. Andy Diamond

      ... well, who knows? According to trip reports you can find on the internet, they keep the most forward cabin curtained off, even to Business Class pax. I wouldn't be surprised finding some special amenities there ...

  6. Gary Guest

    Would anyone in their right mind fly one of these aircraft? Russia is having major problems servicing their own fleet ,let alone any one else's. As the saying goes "if it's not Boeing, I'm not going". Okay, I'd get on an Airbus as well, but I'm staying off of Russian aircraft

    1. Mark Guest

      Russia's problems with maintenance stem from not being able to get parts for planes originating from Western manufacturers (obviously primarily Airbus and Boeing). For planes manufactured within Russia like these, that wouldn't present the same issue. Still not sure I'd want to fly on them mind!

    2. Jesse Guest

      The Il-96 actually has a really good operational record. In the short term, the sanctions will hurt the Russian carriers that rely on Airbus and Boeing, but in the long term, it'll just drive innovation in the Russian aviation sector. In fact, a new version of the Il-96 is under development and recently took its first flight.

    3. ConcordeBoy Diamond

      if it's not Boeing, I'm not going

      This drivel, even after factory-fresh brand new aircraft were basically acting as lawn-darts, due to Boeing's cheapness+incompetence+corruption? ...wow.

    4. Sylvester Alelele Guest

      "If its not Boeing, I am not.going"? Boeing and Airbus aircraft are somewhat a hit more cozy but they are just cars as well. I remember once having an emergency landing in Chad on board a 6 year old B777 and we stayed on the ground for 4 hours (Inside the plane while it was being repaired). We ended up arriving past midnight at our destination! Point? Boeing and IL are just Vehicles that need...

      "If its not Boeing, I am not.going"? Boeing and Airbus aircraft are somewhat a hit more cozy but they are just cars as well. I remember once having an emergency landing in Chad on board a 6 year old B777 and we stayed on the ground for 4 hours (Inside the plane while it was being repaired). We ended up arriving past midnight at our destination! Point? Boeing and IL are just Vehicles that need to be well maintained and to a large extent that depends on the airline operating the equipment and it makes no sense denigrating another manufacturer's equipment.

  7. Icarus Guest

    “ maintenance “ in Russia. How come it was permitted to layover in Canada given the sanctions ?

    1. JS Guest

      Sanctions apply to aircraft operated by Russian carriers, or registered in Russia. This one is neither of those.

  8. grichard Guest

    It seems ideologically weird that Cubana has multiple classes of service.

    1. DT Gold

      All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others!

  9. betterbub Diamond

    Are they allowed to have Embraer planes?

    1. tipsyinmadras Diamond

      No - even though they're made in Brazil they have significant US-sourced content.

  10. James Guest

    How is this allowed to refuel in Gander?

    1. Sean M. Diamond

      Canada has full diplomatic relations with Cuba (as does most of the world other than the USA).

    2. Icarus Guest

      It’s the fact it commenced in Russia. Probably with a hold full of contraband.

    3. Reed Guest

      The US has had full diplomatic relations with Cuba since 2015, and Cubana could land or refuel in the US if it needed to, just as US-based airlines can land in Cuba. Both countries also signed an aviation agreement (far short of “open skies” but still something) in 2016.

    4. Sean M. Diamond

      @Reed - not yet "full" as the US has yet to designate an Ambassador to Cuba - just a CdA-AI for now. But yes, basic diplomatic relations were re-established in 2015 after 54 years.

    1. John Guest

      Here you go!

      https://youtu.be/wuZ-dSVFW8c?si=PcCa8wLaN5OZB-Q0

Featured Comments Most helpful comments ( as chosen by the OMAAT community ).

The comments on this page have not been provided, reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any advertiser, and it is not an advertiser's responsibility to ensure posts and/or questions are answered.

grichard Guest

It seems ideologically weird that Cubana has multiple classes of service.

9
DT Gold

All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others!

5
Sean M. Diamond

Canada has full diplomatic relations with Cuba (as does most of the world other than the USA).

5
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