November 5, 2011:
In Russia, several major operators of the Russian Tu-154 airliner are phasing out this aircraft. One would think it was for safety reasons, as the government had ordered all Tu-154s grounded earlier this year, to discover what was causing recent crashes. But the main reason the Tu-154s are being dumped is cost, and the Russian built engines which use much more fuel than their Western equivalents. For a while, equipping Tu-154s with Western engines was considered, but the high cost of adapting the aircraft to handle new engines killed this proposal. The cheapest solution was to buy equivalent Western Aircraft, like the 320 or 737. And that's what Russian Tu-154 users are doing.
The Tu-154 was the Soviet era counterpart to the American B-727. The Tu-154 entered service a decade later than the 727. About 1,800 727s were produced, and production ceased in 1984, with only a few hundred still in service. About a thousand 154s were manufactured and about 200 remain working.
The 727 was largely replaced by the more efficient twin-engine 737, while the 154 was never really replaced by anything better, until now. Efforts to upgrade the 154 didn't work out, and production finally ceased last year. Major Russian airlines, and most foreign users, have dropped the 154. Smaller airlines still operate 154s because they are cheap, and the later models, with more efficient engines, are not ruinously expensive to operate. But even with the more efficient engines, the Tu-154 is expensive to fly. Other Soviet era aircraft suffer from the same cost and safety issues, and are also being sold or retired. These aircraft also remind people the bad old (Soviet Union) days of commercial flying. Air travelers want something more modern, and Western.