On November 18, 2002 the Russian and French Prime Ministers announced an agreement for the purchase of 18 A320 family aircraft. The actual deal wasn't finalised by the Aeroflot board until November 28, 2002. The deal required an extraordinary shareholdings meeting which meant that it must have cost more than 50% of the carrier's entire $554 million valuation. It was part of a wider fleet rationalisation plan which would see the 1998 build 737s replaced and the widebody fleet reduced to just include 767s by the end of 2004. The A310s would be replaced by a mix of A320s and 767s whilst the 777s had proven too large for Aeroflots routes.
By 2003 the carrier had only 27 foreign made aircraft (2 777-200s, 4 767-300s, 10 737-400s, 10 A310s and 1 DC-10 Freighter) which had been acquired via tariff waivers so that they did not require the payment of import duties. For this reason none of the western types carried Russian registrations and were either operated with Irish (EI), Bermudan (VP/VQ) or French (F-) regs. All were leased from lessors such as ILFC and GECAS.
Aeroflot was under pressure to acquire new Russian types, but had struggled to acquire financing for such deals, whilst the support and production capability of Russian manufacturers was limited. Last and far from least Russian types just couldn't match the economics of Airbuses and Boeings. Perversely Aeroflot could acquire finance for more expensive Western aircraft and in January 2001 it was reported that a letter of intent had been signed with Airbus Industrie for around 30 A320 family aircraft. This agreement took some time to be firmed.
The breakdown of the A320 family order was split between CFM56-5 powered A319s, A320s and A321s with 8 aircraft purchased and ten taken on lease from GECAS. Four of the initial order were A319s registered VP-BWA and BDM-O, with BWA ‘S. Prokofiev’ the first aircraft to be delivered. A320s took up 5 of the order (VP-BDK, BWD-F, BWM) and A321s 3 (VP-BWN-P). The last six aircraft weren't delivered until 2006 and consisted of 3 A320s (VP-BQP,V,W) and 4 A321s (VP-BQR,S,T, X). Noticeably a nineteenth aircraft had been added too whilst further deals with lessor RBS Aviation Capital enabled the addition of further A320s and A321s during 2007. Nevertheless since Aeroflot returned its 737s and kept its TU-154s clearly there were other factors than economics acting upon its fleet planning.
For long haul fleet renewal Aeroflot was finally able to remove the need to take further uneconomic IL-96s and look towards the West for latest generation A350s and 787s with an order for 22 of each reached in July 2007. In the meantime the airline decided to replace its 767s and IL-96s with new leased A330s. Aeroflot’s received its first A330 in December 2008 becoming the first airline in Russia to operate the type. The first 5 aircraft (VP-BLX/Y, VQ-BBE-G) were series 243s, but in October 2009 the first series 343X was delivered and all remaining 17 aircraft are of this longer variant. The A330s replaced the last of the airline’s 767s in June 2014 and now are the primary widebody type in the fleet, operating trans-continental domestic and international routes alongside new 777-300ERs.
They are registered in Bermuda, for import tax reasons, in several loose registration groupings rather than in sequence. BCU is named 'Vladimir Mayakovsky'. The A330-300 seats 296 (28 business and 268 economy) in Aeroflot service. In October 2012 Aeroflot took delivery of its 100th Airbus aircraft.
In recent years Aeroflot has also purchased Boeing 737-800s and 777s and with all Soviet-era types now withdrawn the Sukhoi SSJ is the only Russian made type in the fleet. This has raised the ire of Vladimir Putin, however until larger Russian types prove themselves it is a situation unlikely to change.
2001, January. Aeroflot Signs Agreement for Major Airbus Buy. Flight Global
2002, November. Aeroflot Board Oks Historic Airbus Order. The Moscow Times
2007, March. Aeroflot Decides to Buy Airbus for Long-haul Fleet. Financial Times
2010, July. Putin Dresses Down Aeroflot CEO On Plan to Buy More Boeing-Airbus Planes. Bloomberg.
I'm Richard Stretton: a fan of classic airliners and airlines who enjoys exploring their history through my collection of die-cast airliners. If you enjoy the site please donate whatever you can to help keep it running: