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Interjet to phase out some Superjets in fleet restructuring

Mexico's Interjet will phase out an unspecified number of Sukhoi Superjet 100s and take 20 more Airbus A320neos in a fleet restructuring that is part of a new three-year strategic plan.

"Interjet will be phasing out some of its Sukhoi Superjet 100 fleet with an opportunity for delivery of next-generation Superjet 100 aircraft for future use in markets where these aircraft make operational and economic sense," says the Mexico City-based carrier without elaborating.

The airline did not immediately respond to questions on the number of aircraft being phased out, or when this will happen. Interjet operates 21 SSJ100s, with one aircraft in storage and another eight on order. It is not clear if the carrier will take delivery of the eight aircraft.

Interjet will add 20 more A320neos to its orderbook that will be delivered in the next five years, it adds. The airline had recently held orders for 35 A320neos but transferred seven of these aircraft to US lessor Aviation Capital Group earlier this year, leaving it with 28 on direct order from Airbus.

"This fleet restructuring plan will bring great opportunities that will allow Interjet to be more competitive, optimising its operational costs and enabling highly profitable growth," says Interjet chief financial officer Raúl López.

The additional A320neos will grow seat capacity by more than 3.6 million, says the airline.

"As our international business continues to grow, we need to be sure we have enough of the right type of aircraft to sustain this growth and meet the increasing demands of international airports such as Mexico City with reduced operating windows and available slot times," says Interjet chief executive Jose Luis Garza.

Interjet operates 47 A320s, three A320neos, six A321s and seven A321neos, in addition to the SSJ100s.

The cuts to the SSJ100 fleet follow several operational challenges that the airline had encountered with the aircraft, since beginning Superjet flights in 2013. Defects to the aircraft's stabiliser nodes forced the carrier to ground half of the fleet in early 2017, and aircraft had been cannibalised for parts. In the second quarter, Interjet was compensated almost $40 million for contractual recovery of maintenance expenses incurred on the Superjets.

While the airline does not mention these difficulties in announcing plans to phase out some of the aircraft, it says it will have "quick access to an enhanced spare parts inventory" in Mexico City for the SSJ100 fleet, and is also installing a flight simulator in its training centre in Toluca.

The fleet restructuring is a part of a three-year strategic growth plan unveiled by Interjet today. The airline says the plan is structured around five areas: a general internal review of the company, the airline's product, its fleet, brand and customer service.

"The airline industry has never been as competitive as it is today, while at the same time, there has never been a better opportunity for Interjet to succeed and prosper," says Garza.

He indicates that Interjet will continue to differentiate itself from other low-cost carriers, offering free checked bags and complimentary snacks onboard.

The carrier plans to simplify its fare structure, although it does not specify what this would entail.

Interjet reported a 76.9% decline in operating profit to Ps210 million ($11.1 million) in 2017, on the back of higher fuel prices. The carrier posted a net loss of Ps236 million for the full year.

In recent months, the airline has been drawing closer to global full-service carriers through interline agreements with Lufthansa, Japan Airlines, EVA Air and Emirates.

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