Aeroflot plans budget airline move in Russian skies
By Germain Moyon, AFPMOSCOW--A Russian budget airline? The thought may fill some travelers with dread but Russia's flag carrier Aeroflot is now taking serious steps to launch the country's first sustainable low-cost airline.
August 12, 2013, 12:01 am TWN
Aeroflot has made huge strides in recent years to lay to rest its image as a disaster-plagued Soviet carrier, becoming a member of the Sky Team alliance and winning international awards for its service.
And now it wants to take another step by creating a Russian equivalent to EasyJet or Ryanair, whose success transformed traveling habits and the aviation industry in Europe.
Aeroflot announced the plan for a budget subsidiary after a board meeting in late July. But crucially, setting up the budget airline is still dependent on changes to Russia's aviation regulations which are stricter than in Europe.
The airline, which still controls 40 percent of the Russian aviation market, is hoping from 2014 to launch its first budget routes from Moscow to Saint Petersburg and to cities in the south of Russia.
According to the daily newspaper Vedomosti, the new Aeroflot subsidiary, whose name has yet to be unveiled, plans to eventually serve international destinations including Kiev, Yerevan, Istanbul and Barcelona with a fleet that will comprise 40 planes starting with Boeing 737s.
Analysts point to the fact that many Russians are still making long journeys across the vast country by train — often lasting several days — and may be easily tempted to fly if the prices are lower.
'Jumpstart the process'
The budget Aeroflot would likely be based at Domodedovo in the south of Moscow as opposed the airline's main hub at Sheremetyevo airport.
Russia's third biggest airline UTair is also planning to set up its own low cost carrier, pointing to a clear market demand.
“People consider more and more that their time is precious and they are going to want less and less to spend two or three days to get anywhere,” its chief executive Andrei Martirossov told Vedomosti.