Paul Duffy/MOSCOW

Aeroflot Russian National Airlines is forging a link with another of the country's leading airlines, Sibir, which will see the two carriers interlining passengers and creating a joint leasing company.

Siberia's Sibir is Russia's fourth largest airline and is completing the absorption of the country's number three, Vnukovo Airlines. The Aeroflot link will see the two carriers develop major hubs at their base airports - Aeroflot at Moscow Sheremetyevo and Sibir at Novosibirsk Tolmachevo. Each will develop a network of hub and spoke routes, to feed the other's services.

The carriers aim to maximise their schedules and connections to enable them to interline as many passengers as possible: "It's too early to call it an alliance, but let's wait and see what develops," says Sibir's general director Vladislav Filiov.

The airlines will establish a working group to develop schedules, including the possibility of joint operations, to optimise aircraft use. This may involve Sibir transferring some flights from its Moscow base at Vnukovo airport to Sheremetyevo, although it already operates close to 30 weekly charter flights from there.

The second component of the co-operation will see the establishing of a subsidiary company dedicated to leasing Russian-built aircraft to the region's airlines, including the two partners. This is understood to have resulted from the intervention of Russia's Minister of Transport, Sergei Franke, who is determined to see a practical, market-led, leasing structure for new generation aircraft.

Sibir's Tu-204 fleet has grown to nine aircraft following the incorporation of Vnukovo Airlines' seven Tu-204s. Only one of the Vnukovo aircraft is airworthy, however, as the others need post- certification modifications, work for which Sibir does have the finance. The take-over also provides it with a dozen Tu-154Ms more than it requires in the short term, which could be made available for lease.

Source: Flight International