Paul Duffy/MOSCOW

Transaero, Russia 's third largest carrier, has scaled back its operations by about 30%, with further reductions expected to follow in the face of continuing financial problems at the airline and the worsening domestic economy.

Among the first services to be dropped are flights on the Moscow-Riga-London route, which was operated for Latvian carrier Riair. Transaero had told Riair that it was terminating the agreement at the change over to its winter timetable, principally because of expectation that it will start a direct Moscow-London Gatwick service shortly after the two countries ' expansion of their bilateral agreements.

Nevertheless, it ended services through Riga unexpectedly, two days earlier than planned, because of the seizure of its fuel at Sheremetyevo Airport by a fuel company which claimed that the bill had not been paid. The fuel has since been released, according to reports.

Alexander Pleshakov, Transaero 's chairman, says that Russia 's economic crisis means that the airline has to concentrate on profitable high revenue services mostly hard currency yielding international routes. Most of the cutbacks are targeted at domestic services.

Transaero carried 1.6 million passengers in 1997, but just 669,000 in the first half of 1998; and it has returned its three McDonnell DC-10-30s and two Boeing 757s to its lessors since Russia 's latest financial crisis began in September.

Aeroflot has revised its winter timetable in light of the crisis. Many unprofitable routes, for example from Russia to South America and Africa, have been dropped or will fly with less frequency. Proposals to drop Shannon Airport, in Ireland, as an en route stop have not been pushed through because of the passenger revenue generated there.

Source: Flight International