Russian carrier Utair is to acquire up to four more current-generation Boeing 737s, in order to continue fleet modernisation while uncertainty remains over the 737 Max.
Utair is a 737 Max customer, having converted a previous agreement for 737-800s, but passenger airline president Pavel Permyakov says the delivery dates of the re-engined jet have "shifted". It was supposed to take six Max jets by the end of 2020.
"We expect to receive the Max as early as next year," he says. But in the meantime the carrier is replacing older versions of the aircraft with a more modern variant.
Utair has signed for two 737s with leasing firm Carlyle. They will be configured with 186 economy-class seats.
The carrier says it is also negotiating over acquisition of another pair in 2020.
Permyakov says the intention is to bring in more fuel-efficient aircraft, with greater capacity, in order to improve the airline's economics.
Utair has been battling financial pressures and general director Andrei Martirosov says the outlook for the industry in general remains problematic, with low economic growth rates as well as fuel and currency risks.
Over the first nine months of this year the carrier turned in an operating profit of more than Rb3 billion ($47 million), under local accounting standards, compared with the previous figure of just Rb23 million.
Revenues reached Rb46.9 billion, up by 3.2%, but sales costs fell by 3.5% to Rb43.8 billion.
The airline achieved a pre-tax profit of Rb1.2 billion, improving on the prior loss of Rb2.4 billion, and it made a net profit of just over Rb1 billion.
Utair says its cost-reduction strategy has included implementing Honeywell's GoDirect fuel-efficiency service this year, which has cut consumption by 3% compared with the airline's projections and by 5% compared with last year.
It also claims to have reduced turnaround times by an average of 10min.