On the one hand, this sounds completely insane. On the other hand, maybe it’s not quite as crazy as it sounds at first glance?
Norwegian Considering Buying Sukhoi Superjets
For those of you not familiar with the Sukhoi Superjet 100 (SSJ100), it’s a Russian built jet that’s somewhere between a regional jet and the Airbus A220 in terms of size.
The catch is that the commercial aviation market is extremely competitive, and it’s largely dominated by Airbus, Boeing, Embraer, etc. The SSJ100 hasn’t sold very well, unfortunately. The plane has been ordered mostly by Russian airlines, and the airlines outside of Russia that have ordered them haven’t had great experiences.
For example, Mexico’s InterJet ordered 30 of these planes, but has been slowly winding down their Superjet operations due to reliability issues with the planes.
With that in mind, you wouldn’t expect that more non-Russian airlines would be looking at the plane, but that’s exactly what is apparently happening.
AirlinerWatch is reporting that Norwegian is in talks to lease 40 Sukhoi Superjet 100 aircraft. A Norwegian spokesperson has confirmed that they’re having these conversations with Sukhoi, but haven’t yet signed any contracts.
Why Is Norwegian Considering The SSJ100?
The next logical question is why Norwegian would even be considering leasing the Superjet, especially given the issues other airlines have had with the plane, not to mention the crash earlier this year of a Superjet that killed 41 people.
Well, the answer is… quid pro quo. Apparently with this negotiation, Norwegian would order the Superjets, and in exchange, they’d gain the rights to use Siberian airspace, which is otherwise very costly and hard to gain access to.
There aren’t many low-cost carriers flying between Europe and North Asia, and that’s largely because of how expensive the routes are to fly when using Siberian airspace.
If Norwegian could gain access to this airspace then they’d be able to fly to Japan, South Korea, China, etc. Apparently on a roundtrip flight savings could amount to over $80,000 by using Siberian airspace with a negotiated deal.
What Would Norwegian Do With Sukhoi Superjets?
So, what could Norwegian actually do with the 40 planes that they don’t necessarily need? Rumor has it that:
- They’d send 10 of them to Argentina to operate for their South American subsidiary, Norwegian Air Argentina
- The other 30 would join Norwegian’s fleet in Europe, and operate short haul flights (complementing their 737s)
On the surface this sounds a bit crazy, though these negotiations are apparently very real.
For what it’s worth, a deal like this isn’t completely unprecedented. For example, ANA took over three Skymark A380 orders in order to gain access to Haneda slots. Similarly, in this case, it could be that the Superjet isn’t the ideal plane for them, but it is worthwhile if it gives them access to valuable airspace.
Perhaps the bigger head-scratcher here is that Norwegian is currently focusing on profitability rather than market share. While Siberian airspace might be valuable, is it really worth leasing 40 planes you don’t really want to gain access to that airspace? That’s especially true when you consider the huge issues that airlines like InterJet have had with the plane.
If Norwegian is focused on turning operations around, this doesn’t necessarily seem like the most conservative move.
Do you think we could see Norwegian lease dozens of SSJ100s?