Russia’s only low-cost carrier (LCC) Pobeda Airlines, which is fully owned by national airline Aeroflot, has announced far-reaching plans to more than double the number of flights it operates from Russian regional cities in the winter season of 2018-2019.
The plan is to expand the range of such services from 2,800 flights in the last season to 6,200 in the coming one. The number of direct flights, not linked to Moscow, will increase by 10 per cent, and will comprise up to 46 per cent of the airline’s entire flight schedule.
Pobeda has been active in increasing its regional programme for the past several months. In the current summer season the number of such flights tripled, primarily due to the operator’s aggressive network expansion from St Petersburg.
The LCC has also recently announced its intention to launch hub operations from Kaliningrad’s Khrabrovo airport in the winter of this year. In late July its distribution system started offering tickets from Kaliningrad to London’s Stansted airport and to Fiumicino, Rome. Paris and Geneva are also on the agenda. The flights will be operated from Moscow Vnukovo, with a short connection at Kaliningrad.
Several new routes are to be added to Pobeda’s direct inter-regional programme, including untypical city pairs such as St Petersburg-Kirov and Cheboksary, Mineralny Vody-Yekaterinburg, Kazan-Perm, Makhachkala-Rostov-on-Don and Krasnodar. Further developments lie ahead, the airline asserts, including high-margin international routes and much less lucrative domestic services.
These latest developments indicate that Pobeda is responding to criticism from the Transportation Ministry, which has expressed concerns over the airline’s rapid international expansion. In the spring, vice-minister Alexander Yurchik pointed out that Russia’s only LCC was founded to primarily provide affordable domestic travel, but the share of domestic flights had decreased from 88 per cent in 2016 to 75 per cent last year.
Vitaliy Saveliev, general director of Aeroflot, explained that the profit-generating international services allow Pobeda to keep its domestic fares low, so artificial restrictions on its international programme would, in turn, automatically result in higher fares for domestic travel.
The airline is supporting its network expansion plans by adding extra capacity. Before the end of the year it is bringing in four Boeing 737-800s to its fleet, followed by further six aircraft of the type throughout 2019. In the autumn of next year, Pobeda may start taking the first deliveries of the batch of 30 re-engined Boeing 737MAX aircraft it reportedly has on order.
In the first quarter of 2018, Pobeda increased its traffic by 42 per cent to 1.4 million passengers, according to information supplied in parent Aeroflot’s first-quarter results presentation. Pobeda has stopped supplying its operational results directly to the aviation statistics collected and published by Russian aviation agency Rosaviatsiya.
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