Four Russian airlines are forming an alliance in an attempt to strengthen their position in the country's declining domestic market.

Domodedovo Airlines, Kras Air, Chelyabinsk Airlines and Aviaekspresskruiz, signed the deal, billed as the "first Russian aviation alliance", on 6 December. Each airline is authorised to sell tickets on each others' flights. It is intended to develop a joint sales system.

They aim to use Domodedovo airport, which they all serve, as their Moscow hub to develop a synergy of interconnections, tariffs, schedules and fleet use for the benefit of the alliance and its members. The group hopes to attract other domestic airlines that serve the airport into the alliance, and to build relations with international carriers as they begin to use the rebuilt Domodedovo airport, which opened on 8 December.

The project will be refined over the coming months and the group plans to launch full co-operation when the summer season starts in March. The link-up allows members to mix their aircraft fleet, and use more appropriate aircraft for particular operations. Their combined fleet of 97 aircraft includes twelve types, ranging from the long-range Ilyushin Il-96-300 to the Yakovlev Yak-40 and Antonov An-24 regional aircraft. Cargo aircraft are also operated, including Ilyushin Il-76TDs and An-26s.

The four airlines operate a total of 177 flights a week on 44 routes. In the first nine months of this year, 1.32 million passengers were carried and 46,100t of cargo. Benefits should include increased revenues, a stronger market share, more efficient fleet use, development of international services and connections, improvements to technical and maintenance bases, and rationalisation of fleet replacement.

The consolidation move comes as Russia's airlines battle to stay afloat in tough market conditions. An earlier effort to create a Russian alliance by Moscow-based Vnukovo Airlines and Novosibirsk-based Sibir came to nothing.

Earlier this year Aeroflot created a joint venture, Aeroflot-Don, with Donskiye Airlines based in Rostov-on-Don, in which it holds 51%.

The Russian international carrier is now working to establish its own links with Russian carriers, with talks underway to get together with St Petersburg-based Pulkovo airlines.

Source: Flight International