Two Russian airlines in the Far East, Vladivostok Avia and state-owned Sakhalin Airlines, are preparing to merge.

According to Vladivostok Avia's financial director Alexei Katashonov, a merger agreement has been signed, and the new joint airline will be called Dalnevsotochnaya Aviakompaniya (Far East Aviation Company).

Katashonov says that the merger comes in response to increased competition on the Far East market, and adds that other carriers based in Khabarovsk and Magadan may join the merged airline.

The merger is dependent on Sakhalin Airlines becoming a joint-stock company, says Katashonov, adding that a merger should be possible in less than a year. Until then, both airlines would operate routes and aircraft jointly.

The airlines now operate cargo and passenger flights to China, Japan, South Korea and the USA, as well as on domestic routes. Vladivostok Avia has Tupolev Tu-154s, Yakovlev Yak-40s, three Ilyushin Il-76 freighters and 17 helicopters. Sakhalin flies three Boeing 737-200s, 11 Antonov An-24s and four helicopters.

Source: Flight International