Merpati may cancel plans for ARJ21s and Sukhoi Superjet

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Published: May 15, 2012

Indonesia’s Merpati Nusantara Airlines could cancel plans to acquire 40 Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China’s (Comac’s) ARJ21 and 10 Sukhoi Superjet 100 regional jets.

This comes after the state-owned carrier’s new president-director Rudy Setyopurnomo mandated that all new aircraft purchases will be on hold until load factor hits 90%, says a Merpati spokesman.

He adds that he is “not sure what will happen” with regard to the plans for the ARJ21.

Merpati signed a memorandum of understanding with AVIC International for 40 ARJ21s at the Singapore air show in February, and was due to firm that up in the next two years.

More than 200 ARJ21s have been ordered, mostly by Chinese airlines and leasing companies. Merpati was the first big potential foreign customer, with Lao Airlines and Myanmar Airways planning to buy two aircraft each.

The aircraft was due to be delivered to launch customer Chengdu Airlines in December 2011, but that has been pushed back by at least a year because of delays in the certification process.

Merpati’s plans for the Superjet 100 were mainly cancelled as a result of the directive, but it was also affected by the 9 May crash off Jakarta of one aircraft that was on a demonstration flight.

“Sukhoi was very good for us to fly to small cities because it is also suitable for the runways. But now, the order plans are cancelled,” he says.

Last week, the country’s ministry of state-owned enterprises appointed Setyopurnomo after firing his predecessor after the carrier posted losses of Rp750 billion ($ 82.5 million) in 2011. It also received an Rp516 billion equity infusion from the government last year to repay part of its debt, reduce cash flow deficit and improve its competitiveness.

The carrier has faced intense competition in recent years from privately-owned airlines that have grown rapidly. To cope, it has tried to shift its focus to operating feeder services in the remote eastern regions of the country.

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