By Katsuhiko Tokunaga/SuperJet International (Sukhoi SuperJet 100). Wikimedia Creative Commons.

LONDON – Belgium’s flag carrier, Brussels Airlines, has terminated its contract with CityJet earlier than originally planned, following a spate of delays caused by technical problems with CityJet’s Sukhoi Superjets (SSJ).

CityJet has served Brussels Airlines with scheduled SSJ operations from its Brussels Zaventem Airport hub (BRU) to a variety of short-haul European destinations since the beginning of 2017.

In 2016 Brussels Airlines opted to accelerate the retirement of its aging RJ100 fleet as they took delivery of various leased Airbus A320s to supplement a requirement for additional capacity.

PHOTO: Brussels Airlines.

To fill the need created by the retirement of the airlines RJ100s on its thinner routes, Brussels Airlines wet-leased four SSJs from CityJet (EI-FWD/FWE/FWF/FWG), all having been repainted into Brussels Airlines colors.

The Irish carrier took delivery of its first Sukhoi Superjet in June 2016 and immediately began crew training flights in earnest across the UK and Ireland. As the airline prepared to induct the first examples, of the 15 planes it had on order (along with options for a further 16), the first planes were operated under charter contracts.

The Sukhoi Superjet seemed to be a well-placed replacement for CityJet’s aging fleet of British built RJ85s, and the ideal aircraft to wet-lease to a variety of European carriers interested in the 80-100 seat market.

Since entering service the Sukhoi Superjet has encountered many challenges, however. Lack of spare parts affecting maintenance has, in turn, resulted in aircraft at times being unavailable for days at a time.

Various other issues related to the maintenance of the aircraft’s SAM146 engines have not only affected CityJet’s ability to operate on behalf of Brussels Airlines but have similarly affected other operators, such as Mexican carrier Interjet whose fleet of Superjets may soon be replaced with new build Airbus A320neos.

The Mexican low-cost carrier has endured similar difficulties with the SSJ and, in a move to restructure its fleet, has added a further 20 A320neos to the Airbus order book in September 2018.

Interjet has faced further issues with the availability of spare parts to keep its fleet of Superjets operational. At the end of October 2018, only 10 of Interjet’s 22 SSJs were operational, whilst one has been stripped of its engines and put into permanent storage.

CityJet has faced similar difficulties throughout the summer of 2018 with its aircraft frequently being unavailable for the contracted Brussels Airlines operations.

In December Brussels Airlines returned two SSJs to CityJet, after which they were then flown to and put into storage in Ireland.

The remaining Sukhoi Superjets will be flown up till the 6th of January, when they will end their services on behalf of Brussels Airlines, being replaced by Bombardier CRJs leased from Air Nostrum.

Photo: Fabrizio Berni

Brussels Airlines will operate its last Sukhoi Superjet service for Brussels Airlines on Monday, January 7th, with the last flight being from Billund (Denmark) to Brussels, landing at 08:20.

The Superjet’s final services, as listed below, are provided by AirlineRoute:

  • Brussels – Basel/Mulhouse last flight 04JAN19
  • Brussels – Birmingham last flight 31DEC18
  • Brussels – Billund Overall last flight on 07JAN19, departing Billund
  • Brussels – Bologna last flight 06JAN19
  • Brussels – Krakow last flight 06JAN19
  • Brussels – Milan Malpensa last flight 04JAN19

Overall, it has been a very unsuccessful career for the Sukhoi Superjet program, which started off on the wrong foot by crashing on a demonstration flight in Indonesia back in May 2012.

The demo flight crashed on Mount Salak, killing all 37 passengers and eight crew on board.

Since then, the Russian/Italian aircraft manufacturer only managed to sell few of airframes to a handful operators, among which CityJet and Interjet featured. Today, both airlines are phasing these planes out.