CityJet delivers Sukhoi Superjet into mainline European network operation

Irish regional carrier CityJet has secured a two-year wet-lease deal with Brussels Airlines to operate three Sukhoi SSJ100 Superjets for the Belgian flag carrier on routes from Brussels Airport from April 2017. The aircraft will be flown under an aircraft, crew, maintenance and insurance (ACMI) lease deal with CityJet crews but with a full Brussels Airlines inflight product.

The deal follows a formal tender from Brussels Airlines to support its network needs as it completes the retirement of its Avro RJ100 fleet from commercial operation. While many of its routes have the maturity to grow to larger Airbus A320 family equipment, a number of routes are not sustainable for operation with the short-haul jets and the airline has identified a need to maintain a small operation of smaller jets, and turboprops flown by third party providers.

Under its current fleet schedule, the last of its Avro RJ100s will leave the fleet by November 2017. At one time Brussels Airlines had operated a fleet of over 25 Avros, including the smaller RJ85 variant, but has already cut this down to just eight RJ100s.

“We still need in our network some 100 seaters, so we organised a tender for a two-year wet-lease operation for three aircraft. CityJet won this tender and will start flying for Brussels Airlines from April onwards,” a Brussels Airlines spokesman confirmed, without detailing planned operations for the Russian-built airliners.

For some of its thinner routes from Brussels Airport, Brussels Airlines is already wet-leasing 50-seat Embraer ERJ-145s from Error: Unknown profile and 78-seat Bombardier Dash 8-Q400s from Flybe. According to schedule data from intelligence provider OAG, this winter the Embraers are being flown on routes linking Brussels to Basel, Belfast City, Billund, Bremen, Bristol, Nantes, Nuremberg, Strasbourg and Turin. Meanwhile, the OAG data shows Q400 turboprops deployed to serve the markets of Basel, Birmingham, Billund, Hamburg, Hannover and Turin.

Until Brussels Airlines updates its summer 2017 schedule with the CityJet Sukhoi Superjet inventory it is impossible to know exactly where the aircraft will fly. However, by looking at the existing schedules for the RJ100 for the season we can get an idea of just some of the markets that are likely to see SSJ100 deployment.

As the chart highlights, Stockholm Bromma is currently the largest market served by Brussels Airlines’ Avro fleet, based on summer 2017 capacity. The airline has been a long-time user of the downtown airport rather than the larger and main gateway to the Swedish capital, Arlanda, preferring the convenience it offers its customers at just four nautical miles west northwest of downtown Stockholm.

However, operations are restricted by its location and short runway and Brussels Airlines is currently the sole carrier serving the airport from outside of the Nordic and Scandinavian markets and it is unclear if the SSJ100 has the relevant approvals to serve the airport. This could force Brussels Airlines to switch to smaller Q400s on the route or perhaps move its operations to Arlanda.

Richard Maslen

Richard Maslen has travelled across the globe to report on developments in the aviation sector as airlines and airports have continued to evolve and…