Moscow-based low-cost carrier Avianova is to base aircraft at Krasnodar and Sochi airports after reaching an agreement with their operator.
The carrier is to station a pair of Airbus A320s with a view to deploying them on routes from both cities ahead of the summer season.
"This region represents a very strong strategic platform for us," Avianova chief executive Andrew Pyne tells ATI. "Depending on the local market development, we'll be prepared to strengthen our presence and base more aircraft there eventually."
Under the deal with the industrial conglomerate Basic Element, which owns Krasnodar and Sochi airports alongside two other airports in southern Russia, Avianova will also have locally-based cockpit and cabin crew, including 12 pilots and up to 30 flight attendants.
"Both commercial and operational conditions we've agreed with Basic Element fully match our expectations," says Pyne. "In particular, they provide for such a crucial factor as turnaround times within 30 minutes."
Avianova has completed reconfiguring all of its five leased A320s with fewer seats to qualify for lower custom duties and is in advanced talks with lessors about taking more of the type. Pyne does not rule out expanding its fleet this year.
"We envisage opening bases in other cities and are keen to introduce more direct links between them," he says. "Our route network development will combine maintaining existing routes and launching new services."
As the carrier did not manage to reach agreement on setting up a base at St Petersburg Pulkovo with the airport's operator, it has reduced its local operation to 30 weekly flights from 68.
"It is an important market where we saw a dramatic expansion and intended to keep expanding," says Pyne. "We've effectively cancelled frequencies there in favour of Krasnodar and Sochi."
While Avianova continues serving five cities from St Petersburg, it may review this destination list as well.