Paul Duffy/MOSCOW

Russia's air traffic fell by 11% to 22.4 million passengers during 1998, while revenue passenger kilometres (RPKs) fell by 9.7% to 55.475 billion.

The Russian Federal Aviation Service's [FAS] annual report reveals the eighth successive year of falling air traffic. While traffic had been showing a slight reduction until the Russian financial crisis which began in mid-August, it dropped heavily for the next two months before regaining some ground in the closing months.

A few regions actually exceeded 1997 levels - the airlines of Moscow and the central regions (of western Russia) and those of the Krasnoyarsk and the north east saw numbers grow, whereas all 16 other regions saw traffic down. Worst results were Bashkortistan Autonomous Republic (down 45.2%) and East Siberia (down 43.6%).

Overall, financial results saw the industry lose 1.6 billion Roubles (around £120 million at end of year rates), although a few companies, including flag carrier Aeroflot Russian International Airlines, have declared a provisional profit for the year.

Staff numbers in civil aviation (including airlines, airports, overhaul centres, research bodies and air traffic control) fell from 255,400 to 240,000 and the aircraft fleet fell from 7,833 in 1997 to 7,532. The number of airlines also dropped, from 310 in 1997 to 299.

The industry received 256 million Roubles in state funding in the year, mainly for airport developments.

A total of 339 aircraft were withdrawn from use by government owned or partially owned airlines last year while 38 were added. A further 122 are expected to be withdrawn in 1999 and 2000. The FAS forecasts a demand for 33 new aircraft this year, and a further 130 in the two years following.

Source: Flight International