RusLine ploughs ahead with Ural expansion plan

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Russian regional operator RusLine has introduced a number of scheduled flights from Ekaterinburg, using four ex-Region-Avia Embraer EMB-120 turboprops.

On 16 August, the carrier started serving nine domestic cities as well as Karaganda and Kustanai in nearby Kazakhstan as part of its strategy to expand in the Ural region.

The operator of its Ekaterinburg Koltsovo hub has been instrumental to the plan by acquiring four EMB-120 aircraft formerly operated by the now-defunct Region-Avia and leasing them to RusLine.

It has also agreed to provide backing for RusLine through subsidising its related operational costs, such as fuel supply and ground handling services.

Airport authority director Yevgeny Chudnovsky said this support was necessary to implement its programme of restoring local and intra-regional air links.

"As a rule, such services are not profitable at the beginning," he said. "Apart from helping RusLine, we offer an alternative transit point to passengers and give an impetus to locally-generated traffic growth."

Earlier this year the airport's core tenant, Ural Airlines, concluded a codeshare arrangement with RusLine, which had already deployed two Bombardier CRJ200s on several short-haul routes from Ekaterinburg.

RusLine chief Leonid Mokhov said it aims to pursue a comprehensive approach to fleet and network expansion. "This allows us to use Koltsovo as a hub with the flight schedule as convenient for transit passengers as possible.

"Developing feeder services is a key element of our business strategy. The airport authority is a perfect partner in carrying it out."