From January through August 2016, Russian airlines carried 58.3 million passengers, according to data from the Transport Clearing House. Traffic was down by 8.7%, or 5.6 million people less than during the same period in 2015, Vedomosti reports.
But, in line with the established trend, major Russian carriers continue to increase their traffic and market share.
During the eight month period, Russia’s largest airline Aeroflot increased passenger traffic by 10% (to 19 million); S7 grew 19.5% (to 6.5 million); Aeroflot’s subsidiary Rossiya showed a 50% increase (to 5.1 million, including the growth generated by the consolidation of Donavia and Orenair); UTair was up by 12% (to 4.2 million), and Ural Airlines – by 17% (to 4.3 million, outperforming UTair for the first time). Another Aeroflot subsidiary – low-cost carrier Pobeda – improved performance by 58% (to 2.9 million), Globus Airlines (S7 Group member) – by 43% (to 2.3 million). VIM-Avia, the eighth in the list of airlines by traffic increased its passenger traffic by 24%, to 1.4 million passengers.
On the contrary, operational results of the largest charter airlines demonstrated a downward trend. Azur Air’s traffic declined by 7% to 1.4 million passengers, Nordwind was down by 42% to 1.1 million passengers.
According to Russia’s Minister of Transport Maxim Sokolov, cited by Interfax newswire, in the first eight months of 2016 the cumulative traffic on domestic routes grew 7%, to 33 million passengers. The minister attributed this growth to “five programs of state support for various types of regional air connection.”
Airline executives interviewd by Vedomosti voiced different opinions as to why their traffic increased against the general market trend. “The growth was provided by an increase in transit passenger traffic and the development of domestic transportation,” an Aeroflot representative replied. “The improvement of S7’s performance was due to an increase in flight frequency on some existing routes and the opening of new flights. Flight development became possible due to eight aircraft, which entered the fleet this year – two Airbus A321s and six Boeing 737-800s. We expect that the growth will continue until the end of the year,” said a spokesperson for the S7 Group.
“I think the general trend is set and in the autumn the rate of decline won’t accelerate, while in 2017 the downturn is likely to stop. The market is now mirroring the decrease in the population’s purchasing power. But major airlines are growing, as the crisis influences the weak players more – large network carriers eat off their share with Transaero passengers being redistributed among them,” Andrei Martirosov, general director of UTair, summed up.
The growth of large companies’ traffic indicates industry consolidation; at some routes this may lead to competition deterioration. Experts do not rule out that the smaller companies will leave the market as early as this winter season (beginning in late October), as regional routes they specialize in are cut in favor of the Moscow as central destination.
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