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  • Russia's big airlines expand - but second tier loses out

Russia's big airlines expand - but second tier loses out

Paul Duffy/MOSCOW Chris Jasper/LONDON

Russian carriers enjoyed startlingly different fortunes last year, according to airline passenger statistics obtained by Flight International. The largest among them generally improved their position during the 12 months, but many smaller airlines suffered a sharp fall in traffic.

Overall, the Russian airline sector enjoyed a marginally successful year in 2000, with its 300 carriers moving 21.76 million passengers (up 1.4% over 1999), representing a bottoming-out after a 10-year decline (Flight International 13-19 March). Passenger statistics for individual carriers (often the only data available in the absence of reliable financial figures) nevertheless show that the picture was a mixed one. Growth was concentrated on the large population centres of Moscow and St Petersburg, and to a lesser extent Novosibirsk.

Flag-carrier Aeroflot Russian Airlines, the county's largest carrier, enjoyed an 11% rise in passenger numbers to 5.1 million last year, for example, carrying more people than did its equivalent at the height of Soviet-era travel in 1990, when it moved 4.8 million. Much of the improvement, however, came from an increase in domestic operations from its Moscow Sheremetyevo airport base, with the airline dropping 'International' from its name. A new partnership deal with Sibir aims to further enhance domestic operations as the two airlines add services at their respective Moscow and Novosibirsk hubs.

Aeroflot is also regarded as a likely eventual recruit to the SkyTeam alliance, led by Air France and Delta Air Lines.

Number two carrier Pulkovo, the only major scheduled carrier based at St Petersburg, has also shown growth, with a policy of gradual improvement on old Soviet operating standards. Vnukovo (based at Moscow's second airport), by contrast, endured a disappointing year.

Recovering from near-collapse in 1999, Vnukovo suffered again after the resignation of its new general director, and is due to be taken over by the sector's rising star, Sibir. The purchase should be ratified by the Sibir board later this month, despite the Novosibirsk-based airlines Aeroflot partnership. Sibir, which will adopt a new name after the Pulkovo merger, has also grown by consolidating the airlines of southern Siberia (the September takeover of Sayani establishing it in Irkutsk), and has agreed ties with a range of airlines, including Lufthansa.

Tyumenaviatrans grew most in passenger terms last year, however. Under a new board, it relocated from Tyumen to Surgut to better serve the oil, gas and energy industries, particularly via helicopter operations, which saw revenues rise 53%. It has also opened a New York office. Services were boosted by six new Tupolev Tu-154s. It may also take Bombardier Dash 8s pending the availability of suitable Russian aircraft.

Charter carriers AJT Air International and Kontinental have meanwhile released figures again, after a gap in 1999, indicating that they have recovered from the leisure market downturn that followed the August 1998 collapse of the rouble.

Though Transaero saw the biggest fall in passengers among Russia's top dozen carriers, the change was positive, with the airline - Russia's second-largest international carrier - cutting domestic services to build profitability.

One of the few carriers to publish end financial results, Transaero made an estimated net profit of 280 million roubles ($10 million) last year, 122% up from 1999, its first year in the black. Sales rose to 2.5 billion roubles.

Of the other major airlines to haemorrhage passengers, Gazpromavia fell back to a level 10% above its 1998 figure after showing 48% growth in 1999. Karat also dropped back to 1998 passenger levels.

RUSSIAN AIRLINE PASSENGER TOTALS 2000
  Passengers (000s)  
Rank Airline 2000 1999 Rank % Change
1 Aeroflot Russian Airlines 5,100.9 4,609.2 1 10.7
2 Pulkovo 1,625.4 1,486.0 2 0.4
3 Vnukovo 905.2 934.0 3 -3.1
4 Sibir 832.7 745.0 5 11.8
5 Kras Air 726.7 763.2 4 -4.8
6 Tyumenaviatrans 652.8 474.3 11 37.8
7 AJT Air International 528.4 - 13* -
8 Ural 477.3 480.0 10 -0.6
9 Kogalymavia 443.8 481.2 9 -7.8
10 Samara 438.1 461.8 12 -5.1
11 Kuban 433.0 511.8 8 -15.4
12 Transaero 430.9 571.6 6 -24.6
13 Domodedovo 424.6 552.4 7 -23.1
14 KMV Kavminvod 399.5 382.2 17 4.5
15 Dalavia 381.2 396.9 15 -4.0
16 Aeroflot – Donavia 345.6 385.7 16 -10.4
17 Kontinental 337.1 - 20** -
18 Gazpromavia 330.4 445.0 14 -25.8
19 BAL – Bashkiri 312.5 349.5 18 -10.6
20 Tyumen 256.0 290.9 21 -12
21 Chelyabinsk 249.4 344.0 19 -27.5
22 Yamal 243.3 - 24** -
23 Vladivostok Avia 238.0 227.8 25 4.5
24 Almazi Rossiyi Sakha 217.0 - 27** -
25 Orenburg 213.0 210.6 29 1.1
26 Sibaviatrans 209.0 252.3 23 -17.2
27 Karat 201.5 275.8 22 -26.9
Country total 21,760.0 21,470.0  
Top 27 carriers 16,953.3 (77.9% of total)

Notes: Lists all airlines carrying 200,000-plus passengers. Two airlines which reported passenger totals above 200,000 in 1999 drop out of the ranking – Kaliningrad Avia (previously ranked 27, down to 187,000) and Rossiya (previously ranked 29, down to 173,800).

* No figure published in 1999; ranking based on 1998 figure. ** No figure published in 1999; ranking based on 2000 figure.
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