As the Russian air travel market continues to recover, its main airlines are gearing up for a summer of domestic leisure demand by reestablishing Soviet-era nonstop connections, bypassing St Petersburg and Moscow. With fleets now being reinstated, Aeroflot’s budget carrier Pobeda is leading the way with a 99% load factor.
In an interview with Reuters published Tuesday, Aeroflot CEO Mikhail Poluboyarinov told the media outlet that the airline’s low-cost branch Pobeda is once more seeing a load factor of 98% to 99%. Meanwhile, mainline carrier Aeroflot is hovering just above the 80% mark.
Pobeda, which has been doing remarkably well during the crisis, just recently began operating from Moscow’s largest airport, Sheremetyevo, with a fleet of 737-800s previously operated by its parent airline. This is part of a larger plan for fleet reshuffling and simplification within the Group, which also includes Rossiya Russian Airlines.
Refreshing Soviet network
The recovery is driven by the significant Russian domestic market, where travel has remained unobstructed throughout much of the pandemic. Meanwhile, the state-owned carriers have now brought back almost all of their fleets, as the Aeroflot Group has focused on reviving old Soviet routes as a means of bypassing hubs.
“We made big steps to adjust our route network. Aeroflot refreshed Soviet practices, its Soviet network. Almost all the fleet is now busy,” Reuters quoted the Aeroflot boss as saying.
Increase in direct domestic routes
Routes include direct services from 14 Russian cities other than Moscow and St Petersburg to popular Soviet leisure summer destinations by the Black Sea – Anapa, Sochi, and Simferopol, as well as to Krasnodar and Rostov-on-Don closer to the Sea of Azov. The airline is now also flying nonstop from St Petersburg to Irkutsk near Lake Baikal.
Furthermore, Aeroflot intends to nearly double its flight frequency to Crimea at the start of the summer vacation season. A popular leisure destination with domestic travelers since Russia’s annexation of the peninsula in 2014, the area is set to see an even larger influx of holidaymakers not wanting to be subject to testing requirements and quarantine upon arrival back home.
Internal tariffs remain unchanged
Meanwhile, according to Russian news agency TASS, Poluboyarinov has stated he does not foresee an increase in ticket prices due to the pandemic – at least domestically.
“The ticket price is a balance of supply and demand. We cannot influence important factors, such as a significant increase in the cost of fuel, devaluation of the ruble in the presence of leasing contracts, and so on. That leads to the need for a possible increase in the cost of transportation. But, again, our internal tariffs remain practically unchanged,” the Aeroflot CEO said at the recently held St Petersburg economic forum.
Furthermore, he added that the intention is to continue to increase the carrier’s regional program and that other airlines were looking to move in the same direction.