Russian air rules made easier on local carriers

New rules for international routes have been formulated by Russia’s transport ministry, following a battle for the sky between major Russian carriers Aeroflot and Transaero.

­Local air carriers for foreign routes will be chosen by a special government commission, based on a number of set criteria. The ones with the highest scores will get access to these destinations.

The new rules stipulate that the air carrier should have no tax debts, a high volume of regular flights, an International Air Safety certificate, and should not be affiliated with airlines previously chosen for the route.

The company will also get points in case it owns some of Russia’s newest planes, such as the Sukhoi Superjet, An-148 or Tu-204.  

The commission will include representatives of the Ministry of Economics, the Federal Anti-Monopoly Service, the Ministry of Tourism, and the aviation authorities.

The Transport Ministry decided to liberalize the market after a conflict of interests between the country’s largest airlines, Aeroflot and Transaero. At the end of last year they had an argument over the right to take Russians to popular Italian resorts over the winter holidays.

Aeroflot is the state-chosen air carrier for the bulk of European routes, including Italy.

However, this February, the Ministry took a first step towards liberalizing the market by appointing Transaero as the second airline allowed to offer services to Italy.

At the moment, Aeroflot, Russia’s largest state-owned air carrier, flies to 48 countries and controls around a quarter of the market with plans to expand to over 45 per cent by 2025.

Although no official reaction has followed yet, Aeroflot can hardly be enthusiastic about the decision. Last year, the company’s director Vitaly Saveliev discussed the situation with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, proposing distribution of international routes based on a company’s share of the market and its turnover. Obviously, in this case, other carriers would not have much to hope for.

Experts say another disadvantage of this idea is the requirement for air companies to have Russian planes, which automatically gives preference to Aeroflot and its daughter companies. So even Transaero’s latest acquisition of 4 Airbus-380 jumbo-jets would not help it in the market. Analysts say Aeroflot’s influence in the industry will enable it to avoid meeting all the new requirements.

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