PARIS: UTair to make Ermolino low-cost base

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Russian carrier UTair plans to make Ermolino air base on the outskirts of Moscow a hub for low-cost operations as it moves to a hybrid business model.

UTair will also deploy the 20 Airbus A321s it has on order at Ermolino, which is due to open as a commercial airport in 2015, to handle domestic traffic alongside its base at Vnukovo, says deputy director for communications Lev Koshlyakov.

While Vnukovo continues to handle transfer and international traffic, Ermolino will handle primarily domestic passengers, he adds.

"Certainly we expect the prices for airport services to be much lower than Moscow's other airports," says Koshlyakov.

UTair has 20 A321s, 33 Boeing 737 800s and seven 737 900ERs on order, Ascend data shows.

But while the new aircraft will help "expand the network" and the airline may add "some new routes" many of the new aircraft will be used to replace ageing aircraft.

"At the moment we have stopped our growth to look at quality of service and upgrading the interior of our aircraft," he says.

Koshlyakov says UTair plans to move towards a hybrid model, offering low-cost services on the back of proposed changes to Russian law which will exempt carriers from having to offer hot meals on flights of more than one hour and completely refunding cancelled tickets.

"We are now trying to develop low-cost which has failed in Russia because of a lack of infrastructure and other conditions and we are trying to create a mixed model that is a classic airline with affordable fares," he says.