Russian provincial start-up Air Samara is planning to begin operations in 2011 using Western-built aircraft.

After forming a legal entity, the Samara-based carrier has conducted a share issue and drafted a business plan approved by the regional government which owns a majority stake in the company.

"We're now in advanced talks with aircraft owners and lessors," says general manager Alexander Kozhinov. "Tentatively, scheduled services are due to start in March or April."

Air Samara is aiming to take nine Embraer ERJ-145 regional jets on financial lease in 2011 with a view to opening high-intensity services on 11 short-haul domestic routes. For longer-haul and international flights, to be launched afterwards, it has chosen Airbus A320-family aircraft.

Under the business plan, Air Samara will take operational leases on two A320s in 2012 and on a further three in the following year. It expects to enplane more than half a million passengers in 2012.

Regional transportation minister Valery Matveyev says the authorities are looking to invite tenders to modernise Samara Kurumoch Airport and treble its throughput capacity to 5 million passengers.

Alongside domestic firms VTB-Capital, Novaport, Renova, he has identified Fraport, Flughafen Wien and Macquarie Group as potential bidders.

Source: Air Transport Intelligence news