Members of Russia's AirUnion alliance hope to complete work on establishing a single carrier by November after recently securing final government approval for the long-standing project to link the five carriers led by KrasAir, writes Tom Zaitsev.

AirUnion's steering committee is looking to finalise merger preparations over the next six months, KrasAir director Boris Abramovich said in an interview for the business daily Kommersant.

Major tasks include the completion of commercial separation between KrasAir and its Yemelyanovo airport base as well as a fresh assessment of equity stakes assigned to each of the five carriers. Alongside KrasAir, the AirUnion grouping also includes Domodedovo Airlines, Omskavia, Samara Airlines and Sibaviatrans.

The government will initially retain its involvement in AirUnion by swapping shares in KrasAir and Domodedovo Airlines for at least 45% of its charter capital. It could then reduce or sell this shareholding, said Abramovich, adding: "We are not seeking to rid the government presence and see it as a normal partner."

State and private shareholders will transfer their stakes under the AirUnion umbrella, with individual carriers acting as subsidiaries. AirUnion RRJ is being set up to handle the acquisition of 30 Sukhoi Superjet 100s ordered by KrasAir.

"AirUnion will assume legal rights for all our fleets and route licences," says Abramovich. "This way, we'll have a single operational base, to be subsequently complemented by transition to a single share."

AirUnion will also undertake a wide-ranging fleet renewal. "We carefully match our refleeting policy with our cashflows and intend to proceed with it," says Abramovich.

Source: Flight International