Quid Pro Quo: Norwegian To Lease Russian Sukhoi Superjets?!

Filed Under: Norwegian

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)

Bottom Line

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?

  1. It would be great to have Norwegian flying to far east, but 40 is too much imp, maybe 25 for some shorter routes.

  2. Access to the Sibir corridor is limited to one airline per country, and as SAS already is operativt routes Norwegian can not gain access without a russian expemtion or legislative change. This has been a debate in the media for years in Norway, without Norwegian getting anywhere really. I guess this is Norwegian being creative and exploring a different solution to the issue.

  3. It will be cool to see some alternative plane models in the skies, but I’m curious about the safety angle here. I guess Norwegian must have extensively researched this issue. I would still be apprehensive to fly on one of these planes.

  4. If they were smart, they would go with the Irkut MC-21 instead of the SSJ. They could get the same airspace usage rights and get the most advanced narrowbody plane.

  5. As a FF of Aeroflot I flew Sukhoi multiple times, and it looks safe and I felt very comfortable.

    Sad to see not too much airlines to operate such an aircraft.

    @Ole If so UK must be two countries then

  6. What have been issue with Brussels Airlines where these was n revenue flights for month? i do not think reliability is the only reason, on interjet politics kill SSJ100 on these area…

  7. Will the costs of adding a new fleet type to a low-cost carrier, plus the issues with supply chain access (especially in deep South America) actually be worth the money saved on the overflight fees? Interjet didn’t ground their fleet because of reliability issues per se, but because there is no supply chain to get parts from when planes go into maintenance, even for routine issues. I can’t imagine that will be any easier in South America. And that also seems to be a problem in Mother Russia as well. The biggest issue with Russian and Chinese built airframes today isn’t necessarily reliability, but just the lack of a solid supply chain.

  8. Interjet said that they went with the Sukhoi instead of Airbus because they could get 10 Sukhoi for the price of one Airbus.

    So they bought 30 planes, and only use 5… which translates to they bought 3 planes and got 2 free. I guess? Assuming theyre telling the truth on the math.

    Of course this math only works if the plane doesn’t crash and ruin your reputation for a decade.

  9. Good luck to them, they must be getting them for free to even consider doing this. In a few months half the fleet will be sitting on the ground being parted out to keep the other half flying. Can’t see this ending well.

  10. @EL

    For every rule there is an exemption.

    Virgin started to fly their Tokyo route in 1989. I would imagine that the USSR was a bit more in need of foreign exchange back then, compared to Russia today.

  11. @Max

    MC21 is much bigger so more of an overlap with Norwegian’s 737 fleet, plus deliveries have not started yet. Don’t even think it has European certification yet.

    At least the Superjet is certified and in production. Big hurdle passed just there, now if it’s reliable plane in airline operations is different subject.

    And note that I said reliable rather than a safe plane in airline operations. The 7373Max was by all accounts a reliable plane, the problem was the safety aspect.

    For a plane to be truly be successful it needs to be reliable and safe. It’s the after market support that the Russians are struggling to provide.

  12. Quid pro quo? Norwegian must be impeached, which in the airline’s case would be revocation of flying rights to the US.

  13. It wasn’t a reliability issue with the Interjet and other airlines had. It was a problem with parts availability. The Powerjet engines are a joint venture between Safran of France and Russian NPO Saturn. Safran (probably for political reasons) stopped delivering engine parts. I know the Russians have been working on an all Russian replacement to avoid this issue in the future.

  14. I find it concerning that the Superjet 100 lacks over-wing emergency exits.

    During the Russia crash, those seated in the middle and rear of the aircraft were forced to try to escape through the two forward exits, because the rear exits were engulfed in flames.

    If this jet was fitted with over-wing exits, the death toll would not have been as high.

    And the reason Sukhoi did not equip this airliner with over-wing exits? Cost. Windows are much cheaper to install than doors…

  15. @Jojo
    It depends, is your father’s name Joe?
    If yes, the follow up question:
    is he Vice President of the US? Or is your mother at least Secretary of State?

    Plus, Hunter’s firm was actually paid @$165,000 a month. Don’t settle for a mere $50K. 😉

  16. @ Robert Hanson — Preach!! You took the words right out of my mouth. Not everyone can be a self made entrepreneur like DJTJ!

  17. Well, if Russia has to resort to this kind of selling practices, it really speaks volumes about the quality of the product, doesn’t it?

    I would never buy a ticket for a fight operated by SSJ

  18. SSJ crash in Moscow in 2016 was due to a pilot error (hard landing with leap-frog bouncing) after a lightening strike. This could have happened to any aircraft. The evacuation was delayed by many passengers in the front of the cabin trying to retrieve their carry ons… I agree with SuperVC10 – additional emergency exits would have saved more lives. Perhaps commercial airlines should install automatic overhead bin locks that snap shut during emergency evacuation!

    “Aeroflot Flight 1492 was a scheduled passenger flight from Moscow–Sheremetyevo to Murmansk, Russia. On 5 May 2019, the Sukhoi Superjet 100 aircraft operating the flight was climbing out when it was struck by lightning. The aircraft suffered an electrical failure and returned to Sheremetyevo for an emergency landing. It bounced on landing and touched down hard, causing the landing gear to collapse, fuel to spill out of the wings and a fire to erupt. The fire engulfed the rear of the aircraft, and 41 of the 78 occupants were not able to evacuate and died.”

    Supply-chain issues are solvable. With a severe backlog and shortage of A220s, SSJ is an appealing alternative at a fraction of the price. Wait a decade or two and the price gap will close.

    Norwegian is playing smart. I can’t wait to hear more about commercial airlines experience with SSJ.

  19. One would think that for fleets of 30 or 40 jets Sukhoi should be able to stand up something like a spare part supply chain, mayve even local to the area. This cant be impossible for them to do I`m thinking…

  20. I love aviation because of the exhilarating thrill that we could all possibly die… and these planes are quite literally death traps! Love it!

  21. @Ben (Lucky)

    You mean to say not everyone can get left $400 million by Daddy and then squander it all in various bankruptcies, right? But I guess he can play catch up now, by forcing everyone in the government to use his properties, over charge them and screw over the sub-contractors.

    But hey – even in Germany they were crying over the death of Adolph as the world was crumbling around them (Stalin too, as a matter of fact)…so he’s got that going for him.

  22. @Robert Hanson

    So Russia and Ukraine is the new playground for children of politicians??
    I guess 2020 will be rigged again regardless of who got elected. Long gone the old days of domestic scandals jeopardizing candidacy. Bristol Palin looks like a saint now.

  23. Will somebody please put them out of their misery?

    Also anybody know why they’re currently not running any flights out of EWR?

  24. Recently started reading this site and first time commenting:

    From many years of observing the airline industry I have concluded when a ‘troubled’ airline makes objectively unusual equipment decisions, the end is near.

  25. If my choice was flying on an SSJ100 versus a 737 MAX, I would opt with the former every time ! How many have each killed – to the math 😉

  26. All I’m going to say is that Adria looked at this idea as well about 3 months before they went bust… 😀

  27. @Henry Young, if you’re going by passengers carried vs. fatalities, pretty sure the MAX does better than the Sukhoi, as the MAX has flown way more than the SSJ, even with the groundings. Guessing easily an order of magnitude more passengers carried, so statistically safer than the Sukhoi despite a single event on the latter that didn’t kill everyone.

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