Mexican low-cost carrier Interjet expects to launch revenue service with the Sukhoi Superjet in early September, as it hopes to get the green light from Mexican authorities next week.

The airline has to put the aircraft through 100 flight hours in Mexico before it can begin revenue service, Interjet chief executive Jose Luis Garza explains to Flightglobal.

"We will finish sometime next week," says Garza. Following this will be a process to add the aircraft type to the airline's air operator's certificate, which will put the first revenue flight in early September, he adds.

Interjet will operate the inaugural flight from Mexico City to Torreon in northern Mexico, says Garza. The airline aims to operate the aircraft on about 10 domestic routes within Mexico but aims to deploy it on flights to the USA in early 2014.

"It is the ideal aircraft for mid-density routes," says Garza, naming Monterrey-San Antonio as an example. The carrier could also operate the Superjet to Houston, a city that is not in Interjet's network yet.

Interjet has two Superjets and expects a total of six by end-2014. It will receive its third in September. The carrier has orders for 20 aircraft with 10 options.

Interjet's president Miguel Aleman Magnani says the airline will likely convert its 10 options around mid-2014. "There are 80 city pairs that will allow this type of aircraft to operate profitably," he says at an event on 22 August to showcase the aircraft at its base near Toluca, Mexico City's secondary airport.

Magnani also sought to defend the Superjet, saying that the aircraft does not deserve the criticism it has received despite being involved in several incidents in the past year. "It is a great aircraft and lightweight, and far more efficient than other aircraft in its class," he says.

Interjet has operated the Superjet on about 250 take-offs and landings in the last 25 days, says Garza, adding that the results from the flights have been "extraordinarily good".

"It was much better than expected," he says.

Source: Air Transport Intelligence news