Transaero became the first Russian passenger airline to operate the Boeing 747 when it started services on 11 July 2005 with a leased, ex-Virgin Atlantic Airways Boeing 747-200 on scheduled services from Moscow to Tel Aviv. The 747 would also find itself operated as a major people mover between Russian cities and package holiday hotspots which was a significant element of Transaero's business model (for many years it was the second largest Russian international airline). Transaero acquired six 747-200s the first five of which were all 747-219Bs.
All five shared effectively the same operator history. All were originally delivered to Air New Zealand from June 1981 onwards (VP-BQA was originally ZK-NZW 'Tainui'). After 18 years service with NZ the five were sold or leased onto Virgin Atlantic where BQA became G-VBEE in April 1999. She was returned to FINOVA Capital Corp who leased her briefly to Nigeria Airways and then to Air Atlanta Icelandic as TF-ATN. She then found herself back at Virgin on a sublease in April 2004 where she was named 'Honey Pie'. In 2005 all five aircraft were exported to Bermuda and readied for joining Transaero. The five 219Bs were re-registered VP-BQA-C, E and H). The sixth series 200 in Transaero's fleet was an ex-Cathay Pacific series 267B which had also seen later service with Virgin and Air Atlanta and became VP-BPX.
Transaero's series 200s were only ever short term acquisitions but still saw up to 6 years service. There was discussion that they were to be converted into freighters following their withdrawal but that seems not to have occurred. BQA was the first to be retired and was stored at Moscow Domodedovo in 2008.
Transaero expanded its 747 fleet taking 4 ex-Japan Air Lines 747-346s from 2007 used 747-400s to replace first the 200s and then also the 300s. The first 747-400s were 9 ex-Japan Air Lines 747-446s from 2010 (EI-XLB, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J). These nine 'new' aircraft cost Transaero only $252 million which equates to about the same price as a single new 747-400 when new. Not done there Transaero also acquired 4 ex-South African Airways 747-444s (VP-BKJ-L, EI-BVR, EI-XLZ), 2 ex-South African/Philippines 747-4F6s (VQ-BHW,X) and 5 ex-Singapore Airlines 747-412s (EI-XLK, L, M, N, O). 747-400s continued to join the fleet into 2012 alongside 777s creating a widebody fleet numbering over 50 aircraft.
By early 2013 Transaero's international network included 52 destinations. Its top 10 destinations outside of Russia included Hurghada Airport in Egypt, Bangkok, Kiev, Almaty, Phuket, Tel Aviv, Sharm el-Sheikh, London Heathrow, Paphos and Vienna. From these destinations it is clear how vulnerable Transaero was to downturns in the leisure market of the type caused by the war in Ukraine, devaluing of the ruble and the impact of economic sanctions. Having a large fleet of 747s not easily redistributed to domestic services no doubt didn't help Transaero to reposition itself.
2013, April. Russia's Transaero continues to pursue rapid fleet and network expansion. CAPA
2009, April. JAL Sold 9 747-400s for... Jal Flyer
2007. August. Transaero to acquire Boeing 747-400s and convert 200s to freighters. Flight Global
Seatmaestro.com - History of Transaero Airlines
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: