Aeroflot-Russian International Airlines (ARIA) has hit out at the Moscow Government for delaying signature of a decree exempting the airline from paying taxes on imported aircraft.

Speaking during the delivery of ARIA's first Boeing 777, director-general Valeri Okulov (son in law of Russian president Boris Yeltsin) criticised the Government, saying: "They don't seem to realise the difficulties they have created for us in our dealings with foreign banks."

The decree has not been signed following the wholesale sacking of the Russian Government by Yeltsin earlier this year. ARIA has therefore been forced to secure a $59 million bridging loan from the Union Bank of Switzerland for the recent delivery of the first two of 10 Boeing 737-400s which were to be funded by Chase Manhattan Bank under mandate from the US Government's Exim Bank.

"Our difficulties with Chase and the ExIm Bank are not resolved, but we are making progress. The decree has been approved and, when it has been signed and published, it will make things a lot easier for us," says Okulov.

Meanwhile, the airline has taken delivery of the first of two 777-200s under a seven year lease from International Lease Finance. The second aircraft is due to follow in October. Although it is the first deal the US leasing giant has conducted with ARIA, it had previously placed three Boeing 757s and a 767 with Russian rival Transaero.

The first aircraft is due to enter service in July on the New York and London routes from Moscow. For its first week of operation, the ARIA aircraft is expected to be used on services to destinations such as Frankfurt, Paris and Rome.

Okulov also says that the 777 leases came about partly because deliveries of the Ilyushin Il-96M were delayed. He expects the first, a cargo configured Il-96T powered by four Pratt & Whitney PW2337s, to be delivered in October.


Source: Flight International