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Pressured Saratov Airlines set to cease operations

Embattled Russian carrier Saratov Airlines is set to cease operations, less than four months after a fatal accident involving one of its Antonov An-148s.

Federal air transport regulator Rosaviatsia, which had already put Saratov on a temporary licence, has instructed the airline "not to book and issue tickets" – on its own or on behalf of tour operators – for flights after 30 May.

The airline states that, in response, its management has opted to close the company from the end of May and dismiss employees from 18 July.

Saratov says that, as a result of the decision, some 1,200 qualified specialists will be "on the street".

Rosaviatsia has also told the carrier to ensure that passengers are repatriated, and that no more are transported abroad if their return is scheduled after the 30 May deadline.

Saratov acknowledges the communication about the suspension of ticket sales, and views it as a prelude to introducing additional limitations on its operations.

Rosaviatsia had limited the validity of its air operator's certificate, initially to 27 April and then to 30 May, as a warning to the airline to address shortcomings in its operations.

The restrictions followed inspections of the carrier conducted in the aftermath of the 11 February crash outside Moscow Domodedovo.

Saratov has also been trying to deal with a loss of capacity from the grounding of its An-148 fleet.

It insists it has "taken all measures" to correct the issues uncovered by the inspections, and says that Rosaviatsia's decision has "condemned to death one of the oldest airlines in Russia".

Saratov claims an uninterrupted history dating back 86 years, the carrier having emerged from an agricultural service.

It had been using Embraer E-Jets alongside its An-148s and had recently introduced an Embraer 190 featuring a different carrier identity, with the name 'Ivolga Airlines' on its fuselage.

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