Chechnya's Grozny Avia to rebrand and renew fleet

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Authorities in Russia's republic of Chechnya intend to transform Grozny Avia into a major regional airline using modern aircraft types.

A source in the local government says the tentative business plan for Grozny Avia envisages rebranding the carrier as North Caucasian Airlines.

He adds: "It is intended to serve the entire North Caucasus region. We plan to attract substantial outside investment to fund its fleet and network expansion."

The timing is thought to be opportune for the carrier's enlargement because there is no immediate domestic competition after its potential rival Dagestan Airlines terminated all services in December.

The source says the government has reached preliminary agreements with several Turkish and Saudi Arabian companies to take an equity interest in the revamped carrier.

With their backing, it could initially take leases on Bombardier CRJ200s or Airbus A320 family aircraft to replace its two wholly-owned and two leased Yakovlev Yak-42s.

It is also looking to receive six Antonov An-148 jets as compensation for the loss of its seven Tupolev Tu-134s, which were destroyed during the armed conflict in Chechnya in 1994-2000.

The Russian federal government last year formally assumed an obligation to this end, with the carrier expecting the first An-148 delivery before 2013.

Alongside 12 weekly rotations to Moscow, it currently provides sporadic charter services from Grozny to Istanbul and Antalya as well as to three cities in Kazakhstan.

But general manager Khasan Turkayev says that Grozny Avia also wants to launch scheduled flights this year to Cologne, Paris and Nice. "We've selected these cities due to their proximity to large Chechen communities in western Europe," he says.