AZAL launches low-fare routes

Azerbaijan’s national carrier AZAL has announced launching a low-fares route from Baku to Moscow. Starting on October 25, the route will be serviced daily by an Airbus A320 to Vnukovo airport. Previously, AZAL used Moscow’s Domodedovo only.

Air fares start from Euro 99 one way. The carrier will also charge a fee for each piece of hold luggage (weighing not more than 23 kg), while carry-on bags will remain free of charge.

AZAL’s regular roundtrip fare starts from 284 Euro. Its competitors on the route between the two countries’ capitals are S7 Airlines, UTair, Transaero, and Aeroflot. The Russian airlines offer slightly more expensive fares, judging by the data for several dates in October available from ticket search systems.

AZAL announced its intention to launch low-fare routes at the end of July this year, after Azeri President Ilham Aliyev’s appeal to make air travel more affordable. There are three other destinations, apart from Moscow, enrolled in the program: Antalya and Istanbul in Turkey, as well as the UAE’s Dubai. The airline expects to “implement a typical low-fares model”.

Since August 1, AZAL has been offering a 20% discount on its minimum economy fare for 30% of overall capacity across the entire route network. At the same time, the carrier introduced a new “elite” service class with an enhanced range of services on selected long-haul routes (to New York, Beijing, and London) operated by Аirbus A340s and Boeing 787s.

The low-fares model has not been very successful in Russia and the CIS: several attempted start-ups eventually folded. Transaero and UTair, both mainline carriers, each attempted to introduce low-fares routes. Transaero discontinued the program following the news of its pending merger with Aeroflot. Aeroflot itself launched a low-cost subsidiary, Pobeda, last year. Georgia has also been experimenting with the model, but both its startups to date, FlyGeorgia and Fly Vista, have failed.

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