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In preparation for the arrival of the all-new Airbus A350 wide-body long-haul aircraft next year, Aeroflot, Russia’s largest airline, has started phasing out its Airbus A330 fleet.
VQ-BCQ, the first of three of the long-haul A330-300s to be retired this year, left the carrier’s Sheremetyevo Airport base for Chinese MRO provider HAECO’s base in Hong Kong on 30th of September for re-delivery checks.
By the end of 2021, Aeroflot’s A330 fleet will decrease from 22 to 12 units. The carrier plans to replace its A330s with the new A350s, with the first due to arrive at the beginning of next year.
The newly retired Airbus was the first A330-300 in Aeroflot’s fleet when the airline received it via a lease deal with AerCap in the autumn of 2009. The aircraft was particularly known for its distinctive SkyTeam livery. A year earlier, in December 2008, Aeroflot became the CIS’s first A330 operator with smallest member of the family, the A330-200.
The A330 family were replacements for the older Boeing 767s in the airline’s fleet. In 2006, Aeroflot operated a total of 11 B767s built between 1991 and 2000. Those USA-built airliners were capable of transporting between 215 and 218 passengers in a two-class configuration. The last Boeing 767-300ER left the airline’s fleet in 2015.
The introduction of the brand new A330 – with a capacity varying between 229 and 302 seats – meant Aeroflot was able to gradually improve its long-haul product offering.
After receiving the first aircraft in the airline’s history to be equipped with personal inflight entertainment systems, Valery Okulov, then Aeroflot’s chief executive, stated that the A330s would significantly strengthen the carrier’s potential on long-haul routes, expanding its presence in Asia and the Far East, two strategic markets for Aeroflot.
By April 2010 the carrier had received its 10th A330, the last under the initial contract with AerCap. A few months later, Aeroflot’s board approved the decision for 11 more A330-300s. The last of the type, VP-BDE, joined the airline’s fleet in December 2012.
Since 2013 Aeroflot has stopped receiving wide-body Airbus aircraft, focusing instead on 19 bigger, long-haul Boeing 777-300ERs. The maximum range of the B777-300ER is the same as the A330-200, but its seating capacity is almost 40 per cent higher. The B777-300ER can carry up to 402 passengers compared with the A330-200’s 241.
During the first quarter of 2020, Aeroflot will introduce a new type of wide-body aircraft into its fleet: the A350-900.
The carrier, which plans to eventually receive 28 A350-900s, has thus far confirmed orders for only 14. The new airliner will feature a three-class cabin configuration, with 28 seats in business, 24 in premium economy and 264 in economy classes, a total of 316.