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3 Oct, 2007 02:04

Red Wings gets Tupolev 204 jets

Russian low-cost airline Red Wings is leasing five Tupolev 204 aircraft as it prepares to start operating in March 2008 with a fleet of exclusively Russian planes.

Red Wings has proved an exception to the recent trend to buy Airbus and Boeing jets.  It will be the only budget airline to fly an all-Russian fleet.

Illyushin Finance will lease five modernized Tupolev 204 with first delivery in late 2009.

At  $US160 million, the contract represents the largest sum of money a Russian low-cost airline has ever spent in one go on expanding its fleet.

Red Wings has already placed orders for another six and plans to boost the overall number of jets to 28.

So far the airline operates two TU 204s, which are ten years old.

“The airplane production cycle is very long. We will get the first new plane only next March. But we have to test our business technologies now and that’s why decided to buy second-hand planes” says Konstantin Teterin, CEO of Red Wings Airlines.

Red Wings plans to start full scale operation next spring.

So far the low-cost market is divided between the two players:  Russian Sky Express flying Boeings 737s, and international carrier German Wings operating Airbuses.

Vnukovo is Moscow’s number three airport and host to the country’s discounters. With traffic volumes growing fast, it plans to build special terminals for low-cost airlines.

“After we finish the construction of the new airport complex the existing building will be assigned to low-cost airlines. And their business model is based on economizing – for example on bus transfers from the building to the plane. With the new terminal for discounters, planes will stand closer to the building and passengers will simply be able to walk to the plane” states Vasily Akeksandrov, the Head of the Vnukovo Airport.

The Vnukovo Airport management says the new terminal may be complete by the end of next year and will bring Russian low-cost airlines closer to no-frills European standards.