Pulkovo airport's chief commercial officer Evgeniy Ilyin is cautiously optimistic that a dispute between Pobeda and Russia’s border control agency, which has led the budget carrier to cancel its international services, can be resolved this year.

The dispute relates to security inspections on aircraft that operate cross-border flights.

Speaking to FlightGlobal at the Airline Total Networking event in London today, Ilyin admitted he saw no likelihood that the Aeroflot-owned budget carrier would reopen its international routes from St Petersburg this summer but said the airport was "hopeful" that winter might bring a resumption of the services.

"We have good relations with the management of Pobeda. We continue to discuss our collaboration," he says.

Ilyin notes that while Pobeda has cut international routes, it has added new domestic destinations and increased frequencies on existing routes. He expects that this will allow the airport to maintain passenger numbers at present levels. However, revenue will be a "little bit less" than in 2018, on the Pobeda routes, because domestic services are less lucrative than international ones.

So far, there is no sign that other airlines are preparing to fill the gap left by Pobeda as its decision to halt international services at the beginning of the year was taken at too short notice for rivals to react, says Ilyin.

Pulkovo's other "top priority" at present is the securing of a direct US service. Ilyin estimates that a "minimum" of 150,000 passengers are travelling indirectly to the USA from St Petersburg.

Either a Russian or US carrier could operate a direct flight, but there are also opportunities for a fifth-freedom service to be conducted by a Middle Eastern or Asian carrier, he notes.

Meanwhile, a decision on whether to develop Pulkovo's Terminal 2 into a dedicated low-cost terminal should be taken in May.

Other options include widening the existing international and domestic airside facilities, or building a new separate facility.

Ilyin discloses that Wizz Air is seeking to begin services from the UK to St Petersburg if it can secure the necessary permits for its subsidiary Wizz Air UK to operate the route.

Pulkovo is forecasting that passenger numbers will grow 9% this year, to just under 20 million.

Source: Cirium Dashboard