Cubana de Aviación to start fleet renewal with An-148s

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Cuban's flag carrier Cubana de Aviacion is negotiating the incorporation of up to three Antonov An-148 aircraft to replace its fleet of aging Yak-42 aircraft as the availability of spare parts is becoming increasingly challenging.

Cubana de Aviacion's president, Manuel Lopez, tells ATI that his company is facing increasing challenges as the operation of Russian built aircraft becomes more costly.

"We have maintenance and spare part contracts with the manufacturers, but even so we have to deal with situations in which spare parts are not readily available. This has obvious consequences on our operations, which we have had to reduce over the last years to ensure their safety and reliability", Lopez says. However, he believes that the current network covering 14 international and four domestic destinations "has been stabilized".

Due to the US embargo against Cuba, Cubana de Aviacion cannot operate western aircraft containing a significant percentage of US made parts and systems. "This generates a significant cost for Cubana", Lopez says, indicating that the embargo, combined with the scarcity and cost of Russian spare parts, prevents the airline from rationalising its fleet and lowering its operating costs.

In order to maintain its current level of activity and operational reliability, the airline is looking into renewing some of the aircraft of its fleet, particularly the Yak-42. "We are now negotiating for the first Antonov An-148, but the idea is to get three, for a one-to-one replacement of the Yaks," Lopez says.

He believes that the airline's operations with three Ilyushin Il-96 widebody aircraft on long haul routes to Madrid, Paris, London and Buenos Aires are "doing well" as he considers the Il-96 a "reliable and economically competitive aircraft". Therefore he does not see any short term need to reassess Cubana's long haul fleet.

Alongside the Il-96 and Yak-42, Cubana operates four Tupolev Tu-204 for its regional international routes to Latin America and the Caribbean, three Antonov An-24s, and three Ilyushin Il-62s.

Cubana de Aviación is the principal of three state owned Cuban airlines that also include charter carrier Aerocaribbean and domestic airline Aerogaviota.