DALLAS — The national airline of Cuba, Cubana de Aviación (CU), is experiencing a severe crisis and has had to resort to using retired aircraft to continue its operations.
Cubana de Aviación has traditionally had close ties with Russian aviation. However, the Cuban flag carrier is currently facing a major shortage of spare parts because all Russian suppliers have been prohibited from exporting maintenance aid to the West. As a result, none of the twelve aircraft in CU’s fleet have been able to take off since July 24 of this year.
To maintain some level of service, the carrier has been relying on wet-leased airplanes from other operators, such as Plus Ultra (PU), to continue operating its long-haul routes from Havana (HAV) and Santiago de Cuba (SCU) to destinations like Buenos Aires (EZE), Madrid (MAD), and Barcelona (BCN).
Cubana has three Tupolev Tu-204s, two of which have been stored in Havana since 2015 and 2017. The third Tu-204, CU-T1702, departed for Russia on July 4, 2019, to undergo the Check-D at the maintenance center (MRO) in Ulyanovsk. CU-T1702 landed back in Cuba on Monday after seven years to combat its current situation.
The Tupolev Tu-204 is a twin-engined medium-range narrow-body jet airliner capable of carrying 210 passengers. The Tu-204 is the basic passenger airline model, and the Tu-204C is the basic freight or cargo model. The most-used models are the -100C and the -120C.
Russia’s largest aircraft lessor, Ilyushin Finance, has previously placed Tu-204-100 aircraft with CU, Air Koryo (JS), Red Wings (WZ), and Tu-204-300s with Vladivostok Avia (XF).
However, issues with delivering Russian parts to the West due to sanctions come after Tupolev’s already low production rates for the Tu-204 models. In 2016, the manufacturer asked component providers to lower their prices in order to cut the plane’s overall price by 27–30%. They agreed, on the condition that 44 more firm orders be secured for the Tu-204SM through that year.
Featured image: Tupolev Tu-204-100E, Cubana de Aviacion JP7375994. Photo: André Du-pont (Mexico Air Spotters), GFDL 1.2