Russia’s Severstal Airlines, a 100 per cent subsidiary of mining and steel giant Severstal, enjoyed an almost 30 per cent traffic improvement in 2019, in what turned out to be a break-through year after the airline launched operations of Sukhoi Superjet 100 regional jets, allowing it to expand its route network and service options.
Last year the Cherepovets-based airline served some 315,000 passengers as it achieved its highest growth rate of the last five years. The improved numbers encouraged the airline’s parent to consider the construction of a second passenger terminal at Cherepovets airport (IATA: CEE), which Severstal also controls.
Nevertheless, with regard to the state of its operating economics and after one year of operations, the airline has not yet voiced any conclusions about its SSJ100 experience. The Russian-made regional jet entered commercial service with Severstal Airlines on February 7, 2018 and the airline now has four of the type in its fleet, with the latest addition its first winglet-equipped SSJ100, which arrived at Cherepovets on January 2 this year. Apart from the four 93/100 seat SSJ100s, the airline operates an equal number of 50-seat Bombardier CRJ200s. In 2019 it retired the last of its venerable Soviet-built Yakovlev Yak-40 tri-jets, which was the core of its fleet for a long time, and phased out one of its CRJ200s.
This optimisation of its fleet allowed the airline to tap into new markets by launching several new routes. In the 2019/2020 IATA winter schedule the airline is offering scheduled services on 14 routes.
By 2023, Severstal Airlines expects to grow its fleet to six aircraft in the 90-to-100 seats range, the airline’s general director Nikolay Ivanovskiy has previously revealed to Russian Aviation Insider. But the two additional aircraft will not necessarily be SSJ100s, he admits. Alternative candidates include the CRJ900, which the airline has been seriously considering. Even though the final decision will be based on a thorough analysis of the SSJ100’s operational economics, Severstal’s management is not ready to publicly discuss any conclusions or talk about any further fleet expansion strategy before the mid-spring of this year. “By that time we’ll have justified data on the Superjet 100 operations, [and will be able to] sum up the results and look into possible options,” the company told Russian Aviation Insider.
Severstal Airlines’ operational performance improvement has also brought Cherepovets airport’s infrastructure development into the spotlight. The airport’s only passenger terminal entered service in 2005 and is now too small. On January 14, Severstal announced plans for the construction of a second terminal, a one-storey building equipped with modern passenger and baggage screening devices, conveyor belts, check-in stands, and visual and aural information systems, it says.
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