Kuban cuts back domestic routes after SkyExpress deal

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Russian carrier Kuban Airlines is to cut its domestic flight schedule by more than half to improve efficiency following its integration with low-cost operator SkyExpress.

The two airlines, controlled by industrial holding Basic Element, have completed merging their fleets and personnel. While each has retained its identity, the Krasnodar-based Kuban is understood to bear an overall responsibility for sales and operations planning.

In a statement, Kuban said SkyExpress would provide regular services from Moscow only to Chelyabinsk and Vladikavkaz, with scheduled flights to five other cities to be cancelled from the end of the month.

Over the past two months, SkyExpress has already stopped operating regular flights to Tyumen, Murmansk, Perm, Gelendzhik and Sochi.

Apart from route network and cost optimisation, a spokesman for the carrier referred to lower demand during the winter season and temporary capacity constraints.

He said: "We're replacing our Boeing 737s with Airbus A319s and expect our fleet renewal to take half a year, hence some strain on the capacity in the interim. But we could return to the abandoned routes next year."

At the same time, Kuban has withdrawn all of its 12 Yakovlev Yak-42s from scheduled services and reassigned them solely to charter flights.

Using a combined fleet of three A319s and eight Boeing 737s, the unified airline will carry out two daily Moscow-Krasnodar services as well as scheduled flights from Krasnodar to Sochi, Yerevan,Tel Aviv, Istanbul and Dubai.