Putin pressures Aeroflot to take Russian-built aircraft

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Russian prime minister Vladimir Putin has put pressure on flag-carrier Aeroflot to acquire domestically-built aircraft during the renewal of its expanding fleet.

During a meeting Putin told Aeroflot chief Vitaly Savelyev that it was unacceptable for the flag-carrier, with its aim to dominate the Russian market, not to support its own country's aircraft industry.

Aeroflot is taking over management control of six other Russian airlines, including Rossiya and Vladivostok Avia, and is turning its attention to modernising their aircraft.

Putin has questioned Aeroflot chief Vitaly Savelyev over the process. A transcript of their meeting, released by the prime minister's office, shows that Savelyev told the prime minister that the fleets of the six carriers were "severely outdated" and needed renovation and "unification".

Just six aircraft in Aeroflot's mainline fleet, all Ilyushin Il-96s, were Russian-built, he said, although he added that the jets - which had just undergone heavy maintenance over the winter - were "profitable".

Savelyev stated that the rest of Aeroflot's fleet - comprising 11 Boeing 767s, 10 Airbus A330s and another 64 A320-family aircraft - were imported, added that the airline was also acquiring 22 Boeing 787s and 22 Airbus A350s.

He told Putin that Aeroflot's strategy was to take first place in the Russian market and "occupy a dominant position at home".

But Putin wanted to understand the extent to which Aeroflot would purchase Russian-built aircraft, countering: "You want todominate the domestic market, but do not want to buy domestic equipment. That will not do."

Savelyev pointed out that Aeroflot was a customer for 30 Sukhoi Superjets, and had signed a lease agreement covering 10 of these.

He added that Aeroflot was working with Rostekhnologii and, under a memorandum between the two companies, was formulating a marketing strategy to determine how many aircraft were needed to modernise the carriers being consolidated.

Putin mentioned the United Aircraft MS-21 project, as an example of upcoming Russian-built aircraft, and told Savelyev: "The modernisation of the fleet should still focus primarily on domestic equipment."

Savelyev said that Rossiya would be acquiring Boeing 737-800s through industrial firm Rostekhnologii but had already started introducing Antonov An-148s manufactured in Russia.

Decisions still had to be made, he added, on fleet renewal for the other carriers, including Vladivostok Avia and Sakhalin's SAT. "We believe, of course, that we will use domestic equipment," said Savelyev, adding that Russian-built types did not require payment of import taxes and were less expensive to acquire.