Russian budget carrier Avianova is pulling more than 20 seats out of the cabins of its Airbus A320s as a result of higher costs emerging from new customs regulations for imported aircraft.
The airline says it is being "forced" to make the change, which will reduce capacity in the jets by 12%, because single-class layouts in the type are subject to heavy taxes.
Avianova is to transfer its entire fleet of five A320s to maintenance stations over the next few weeks to reduce the cabin configurations from 180 seats to 159.
Chief executive Andrew Pyne says the changes to Russian customs rules have resulted in an "unintended consequence" from which full-service carriers will benefit.
"If you import, as we do, in a single-class configuration in order to reduce costs, and hence fares, you are obliged to pay a punitively-high amount of duty and VAT," he states.
He says the customs duty for the A320 stands at 20% with a VAT fee of 18%.
Importing dual-class A320s or Boeing 737s allows carriers to avoid the charges. Pyne says: "This approach creates further inequality in the local air transport market and undermines the Government's stated policy of reducing Russia's high air fares."
He adds that the airline has "no option" to reduce its cabin capacity if the carrier is to remain competitive.
Avianova operates from Moscow Sheremetyevo and St Petersburg to 15 domestic destinations.