Azur Air, Russia’s largest charter airline, is changing its Moscow base by moving its entire operation from Moscow’s Domodedovo (DME) airport to local rival Vnukovo (VKO) airport from October 1. The move comes as a blow to DME, Russia’s second biggest airport. In June it lost another airline – regional carrier RusLine – to its rival.
Azur Air will transfer its fleet in several steps, the airline has explained to Russian Aviation Insider. The switch will begin in early October with the relocation of narrow-body Boeing 737-800s and Boeing 757-200s. The entire fleet, including wide-bodies, is then expected to join in before the end of that month. The phased transition is required to fine-tune passenger and aircraft handling procedures and ensure seamless integration of the airline’s and airport’s information systems.
The airline, which operates flights on behalf of Anex Tour travel company, currently operates a fleet of 23 aircraft: eight Boeing 757-200s, an equal number of Boeing 767-300s, six Boeing 737-800s and a Boeing 777-300ER. Its fleet roster is poised to grow to 30 aircraft by 2020.
Although Azur Air performs flights from 40 Russian cities to 29 international leisure destinations, up to 40 per cent of its traffic stems from Moscow. In the first half of this year the airline carried 710,000 passengers from the Russian capital, up 8.8 per cent on the same period of 2017. Traffic for the first three quarters of 2018 was 1.1 million passengers. For the entire last year traffic from Moscow reached 1.4 million passengers.
Until recently the bulk of Azur Air’s Moscow flights were operated from Domodedovo, with only one flight – to Antaliya in Turkey – using Sheremetyevo. That flight, introduced for the summer season, may remain in the schedule, the airline says.
Although the airline has given no reason for its decision, the change of base airport may likely be attributable to VKO’s more attractive prices compared to its larger Moscow rivals. Azur Air says only that Vnukovo is more accessible from downtown Moscow now and this factor will increase even more when the airport’s own underground station is opened in three years time.
The airport’s efforts are currently being streamlined to offset the effects of the exit of Rossiya Airlines, Russia’s second largest carrier, which has decided to join its parent Aeroflot at its Sheremetyevo base. Rossiya, accountable for almost a third of all of Vnukovo’s traffic, is in the process of relocating its Boeing 777s and five Boeing 737s to Sheremetyevo.
Meanwhile, Domodedovo remains the only one of the four airports serving Moscow to have seen passenger traffic numbers decline since the beginning of the year. In the first eight months DME shrank by 3.2 per cent. The four airports effectively serving Russia’s largest city are Sheremetyevo, Domodedovo, Vnukovo and Zhukovsky.
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