Russian air taxi operator Dexter is focusing on developing upscale on-hire services after finding this business economically more sensible than scheduled domestic flights.

In the latest move, Moscow-based Dexter has gained certification to provide cross-border services for people frequently needing to travel to neighbouring countries at short notice.

Starting in June, it will offer such customers transport to destinations in Belarus, the Caucasus region, Kazakhstan and Ukraine, as well as the Baltic and Scandinavian countries.

Flights will be within a 1,200km (650nm)-range capability of the Swiss-made Pilatus PC-12s single-engined turboprop chosen by Dexter in preference to the domestic Myasishchev M101T, which has a much shorter range and accommodates fewer passengers.

 © Pilatus

The company has abandoned its original ambitious plan to create a network of scheduled taxi services between closely located domestic cities and shifted to carrying out only on-demand point-to-point flights, charging Rb130 ($5.50) a kilometre.

Claiming a steady stream of orders for superior services from corporate executives, state officials and wealthy individuals with special travel requirements, Dexter says there is a compelling business case, which it cannot ignore.

Apart from three M101Ts, the operator uses a pair of PC-12s but, under the agreement with the Swiss manufacturer, is due to receive 11 more this year.

"We've secured rights to take up to 100 aircraft from Pilatus or the entire quota they assigned for Russia until 2011," says the operator, indicating that the aircraft utilisation rate averages 230h a month. "With that fleet we would be able to provide ad hoc services with high intensity domestically and abroad."

Last year, Dexter had eight M101Ts, but is understood to have disposed of five of them and cancelled an order for 45 of the type.