According to Ramon Martinez, president of Corporacion de la Aviacion Cubana S.A. (Cacsa), a government holding company that includes Cubana—the nation's largest airline—along with the country's airports and traffic control service, the carrier has a clear mission to bring more international tourists to Cuba and be able to fly them around the island nation's resorts and throughout the Caribbean region. The long-haul part of the network is operated by Il-96s and Tu-204s while the domestic routes will be handled by the new An-158s.
Cubana carried 700,000 tourists in 2012 and a 5% increase is eyed for this year. Cuba has 10 international airports that can receive large aircraft. Most of the tourists come from Canada and Argentina. The carrier is introducing flights to Sao Paulo in July. The airline also flies to Madrid and Paris. Martinez says Cubana wants to add Moscow to the roster, but needs more modern aircraft to compete with Aeroflot's and Transaero's Western-type airliners on this route.
Cubana is in talks with IFC about a possible order of two Il-96-400s and three Tu-204SMs. But Cubana's plans depend on the development of these two programs. The Il-96-400—a stretched version of the basic Il-96 with improved operational efficiency—currently exists only in a cargo version. Its conversion to the passenger variant will require significant design and certification efforts. The Tu-204SM, a variant with improved avionics and engines, is the midst of certification trials.
Operating an Eastern fleet means Cubana must boost its maintenance expertise. “We need to be more accurate and skilled while operating the Russian types,” says Vigoa. “Their component reliability is not comparable to Western types.” The airline has trained up to 100 technicians in Russia and has line maintenance teams at all major airports. In-depth checks are made at the main base, Havana Jose Marti International Airport. However, Cubana does not perform heavy checks and engine repair as its employees lack the necessary level of training.