Austrian business aviation services provider Jetalliance has become the first Western operator to offer domestic charter services within Russia and the CIS. It plans to make its first commercial flight this month with its Cessna Citation Sovereign and CJ3, which were recently added to the Russian register.

The Kottingbrunn-headquarterd company completed in July its 49% acquisition of Aeroflot Russian Airlines business aviation subsidiary Aeroflot Plus, which it has since rebranded Jetalliance East. The midsize Sovereign and light-cabin CJ3 will be based at Moscow Sheremetyevo airport and will be operated under a Russian aircraft operator's certificate.

Michael Holy, marketing director for Jetalliance, says the key aim of the venture - in which in which Aeroflot has an equal share and 2% is held privately - is to open up the domestic charter market within Russia.

"We want to develop the local market and become a leading business aviation player here by providing turnkey services for our customers. These will include aircraft charter, management, finance, sales and maintenance," he says.

Jetalliance's relationship with Aeroflot has been instrumental in allowing the company to gain a foothold within Russia, Holy admits, and will play a pivotal role going forward. "As Russian's national carrier the Aeroflot brand is very well established. It has built a strong reputation and its network is widespread," he says.

He admits that Aeroflot Plus like many other VIP charter operators in Russia are less experienced in the traditional business aviation services market. "They typically provide services with Russian-built airliners that have been converted for VIP travel. These are usually targeted at large group transportation. There are few commercial aircraft in Russia that are designed to transport between two and six people, so our Citations should open up many doors for us in within the country."

Jetalliance East will continue to operate its four Yakovlev Yak-42s and Tupolev Tu-134s within the former Soviet Union countries but Holy says the company will upgrade the fleet when demand dictates.

"We can now offer point to point travel within this huge country with commercially operated state-of-the-art business jets. The CJ3 carries six passengers and flies distances like St Petersburg to Sochi or Moscow to Nice. The Sovereign carries nine passengers and flies non-stop from Moscow to Novosibirsk or Dubai."

Source: Flight International