Russia considers domestic access for foreign budget airlines

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Russian authorities are looking at the possibility of enhancing competition in the country's air transport market by allowing foreign low-lost carriers to fly domestic routes.

The government commission on competition and development of small and medium-sized businesses has requested the transport ministry to assess a rationale for changing the Air Code to that effect.

First deputy premier Igor Shuvalov, who heads the commission, said it would consider the ministry's report at its next meeting in November.

Federal anti-monopoly service chief Igor Artemyev believes that the possible amendments should envisage giving the right of cabotage within Russia to foreign low-cost operators.

"We expect to hold a serious discussion on how to encourage their activity here," he says. "This includes inviting some of them to carry out domestic transportation services on a trial basis."

The competition bureau has also prepared a package of proposals aiming to facilitate the creation of domestic budget operators.

Artemyev says these include lifting of customs duties on high-density, single-class Boeing 737s and Airbus A320s, and exempting budget start-ups from certification requirements demanding a fleet of at least eight aircraft with 55 seats.

The proposals would also permit selling of cheap, non-refundable air tickets for flights on international routes without restrictions and domestic routes served by at least three carriers.

Several foreign low-cost carriers, including Germanwings and Norwegian, operate to Russian destinations but efforts to create a sustainable internal budget airline have been unsuccessful.