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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Aeroflot Leases 4 More Airbus Jets

State-owned Aeroflot-Russian International Airlines unveiled details Wednesday of a deal to lease four more A-310 jets from Airbus Industrie to meet growing competition and replace some of its aging Soviet-era fleet.


The five-year leasing deal brings to 10 the number of long-range A-310s the company operates and is expected to help trim operating costs.


"This is an expansion of our fleet, improvement of services and an increase of the number of flights in line with our restructuring policy," said Aeroflot's first deputy director in charge of management and administration, Valery Okulov, at a news conference Wednesday on one of the planes at Sheremetyevo airport.


The agreement also allows Aeroflot to reduce lease payments for its entire complement of A-310s and obtain some servicing privileges, including a free Airbus flight simulator. Previously, all Russian A-310 pilots were trained in Germany and France.


"The costs of flying an A-310 are much lower than those for our domestic planes, like the Il-62. Actually, we'll be replacing the Il-62 with those new airbuses," Okulov said.


Okulov said that even the new generation Russian wide-body jet Il 96-300 was less economical and technically inefficient because of a short engine life.


Okulov said the joint program between Aeroflot and U.S. companies to produce a modified version of the Russian IL-96 jumbo jets powered by Pratt & Whitney engines was "going very slowly and with great pains."


"We pray for this program to come out right. Of course we'd rather use those planes because it would be much cheaper," Okulov said.


Okulov said Aeroflot would not quit the leasing agreement with the Airbus Industrie in any case. "We have a long-term relationship," he said.


Aeroflot said the new Airbus deal would save some $15 million through lower leasing tariffs alone, while the overall savings could amount to as much as $40 million a year.


Igor Desiatnichenko, head of Aeroflot's directorate for economic planning, said the airliners were acquired under an operational leasing conditions, with monthly payments of $525,000 each. The planes were insured with Ingosstrakh for $51 million each, he said.


Three of the four Airbuses have been previously used by Delta Airlines and are certified to fly over the Atlantic.


"In the near future we plan to use them on American flights," Desiatnichenko said, with possible destinations including Washington, Mexico City and Santiago.


Commenting on a deal Aeroflot signed last June with its former chief domestic rival, Transaero, Okulov said the companies would seek to jointly operate routes, improve air safety and share staff in a bid to stave off foreign competition.


"We don't think Transaero is our main competitor. It's Lufthansa, JAL, British Airways and the like that we've got to compete with," Okulov said.


Aeroflot has been hard hit by economic reforms and the collapse of the Soviet Union, which broke the company into numerous so-called baby-flots.