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Interjet backtracks after indicating plan to sell Superjets

Mexican airline Interjet has walked back comments that indicated it planned to sell its Sukhoi Superjet fleet, stressing that it intends to continue operating the regional airliners, despite several mechanical issues in recent years.

"The Sukhoi Superjet 100 has been an integral part of Interjet's success, and we will continue to operate this aircraft," says Interjet, following FlightGlobal's report that the airline was in talks with Sukhoi to sell its Superjet fleet.

Interjet chief executive Jose Luis Garza was on 11 September asked by FlightGlobal if it was true that the airline planned to sell the Superjet fleet, and said it was. "We're finalising an amicable negotiation with Sukhoi," he said.

An Interjet spokesperson has subsequently told FlightGlobal that Garza's comments were referring to talks with Sukhoi on "improving Interjet's competitive market position as it relates to their fleet, training, etc".

He adds that the outcome of the discussions "will be made available to the market if appropriate".

Sukhoi did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

Interjet received compensation of almost $40 million in the second quarter, as contractual recovery of maintenance expenses related to the Superjet fleet. The airline's operating expenses, after accounting for the compensation, rose 21% in the quarter.

The Mexican carrier operates 21 Superjets and has one in storage, Flight Fleets Analyzer shows. That aircraft sustained significant damage to its nose after an accident involving an airbridge at Mexico City airport in 2015. Interjet has another eight Superjets on order.

Since putting the type into service in 2013, the airline has encountered several difficulties with the aircraft, including a period of weeks-long repairs to fix defects on the stabiliser nodes in early 2017. Those repairs resulted in the grounding of 11 aircraft, or half of the airline's Superjet fleet.

Bloomberg reported earlier this year that four of Interjet's Superjets were in storage for months, and were being cannibalised for parts to keep the remaining aircraft operational.

Interjet, the sole Superjet operator in the Americas, had repeatedly downplayed the mechanical issues with the aircraft, citing the "sweet deal" it received when it ordered the aircraft. Interjet first ordered the Superjet in 2011, with an agreement for 15 of the aircraft. It ordered another 10 and converted five options in 2012, for a total of 30 aircraft.

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