Russian flag carrier makes key appointments

Russian Flag carrier Vitaly Saveliev has led Aeroflot since his appointment to the role in April 2009 (Aeroflot)

Russian flag carrier Aeroflot has re-elected Vitaly Saveliev as its chief executive officer (CEO) for another five-year term. His re-appointment – approved at a 28 August 2018 board meeting – follows a directive from the Russian government and comes after the vibrant nine years in the airline’s history. At the same meeting, Andrey Chikhanchin was appointed deputy chief executive of commerce and finance, in which he will oversee all financial functions of the company as well as network and revenue management and loyalty programmes.

Saveliev, who has led Aeroflot since his appointment to the role in April 2009, has steered the company from a position of regional carrier status. Back then, Aeroflot, together with its subsidiaries, ranked only 68th internationally, but in the intervening years, the airline’s passenger traffic has increased significantly, from 8.6 million passengers in 2009 to 32.8 million in 2017. In total, Aeroflot and its group subsidiaries carried a record number of 50.1 million passengers in 2017, up from 11.1 million back in 2009.

Dynamic corrections to Aeroflot’s flight-path were further intensified in 2010, with Saveliev tasked with creating Russia’s first fully-fledged airline group. To achieve this, the state transferred a number of regional carriers to Aeroflot’s management, and from these assets Aeroflot Group was established. The new group included Russia’s second biggest carrier in Rossiya Airlines (which itself had been created from St Petersburg-based regional airline Rossiya, as well as Donavia and Orenburg Airlines), and far eastern airline Aurora (which was formed out of SAT Airlines and Vladivostok Avia). In the same period, came another Russian airline milestone – the emergence in the group of Pobeda, the low-cost carrier.

To facilitate these group developments, other major transformations were taking place inside Russia. Key amendments to Russia’s Aviation Code were passed, including the introduction of non-refundable tickets, the ability for airlines to charge for baggage and recruit pilots from abroad, and the introduction of blacklists for disruptive passengers. These changes effectively harmonised Russia’s Aviation Code, thereby making it possible for low-cost flights in Russia, and so Pobeda launched its first flight on 1 December 2014.

This development had a big social impact because it made air transport more accessible to ordinary Russians, with more than a million flying for the first time in the low-cost carrier’s first two years of operations. Since its first flight, Pobeda has carried more than 15 million passengers.

In the meantime, Russian flag carrier has continued to scale the league table of global airline reputations and, in 2011, Aeroflot Group’s ‘Strategy-2025’ was presented. Its primary goal was to establish Aeroflot as one of the world’s leading airlines, with a ranking in the top flight of global aviation. The plan was that, by 2025, Aeroflot Group would not only become one of Europe’s top five but would also gain a place in the world’s 20 largest aviation groups, two goals which were achieved significantly ahead of time, with Aeroflot becoming one of the world’s top 20 airlines and one of Europe’s five largest as early as 2017 (among legacy carriers).

With Aeroflot determined to continue on its positive flight-path, airline’s management team have already prepared an updated Aeroflot Group ‘Strategy-2023’ which is soon to be presented. A major contributor to this latest project will be Andrey Chikhanchin, the new deputy head of commerce and finance, who has worked at Aeroflot since 2009. He joined the company shortly after the new senior management team headed by Saveliev was appointed to reinvigorate the company and improve its financial results.

He previously served as deputy head and, later, head of Aeroflot’s corporate finance department, where he oversaw a number of key financial functions, including budgeting and accounting, investment and risk management, corporate insurance, debt financing and investor relations. More recently he has served as acting deputy chief executive of commerce and finance.

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