Russia’s air-taxi operator benefits from economic downturn

Photo by Fyodor Borisov / Transport-Photo.com

By Artyom Korenyako

Dexter, the Russian air-taxi operator with eight-seat Pilatus PC-12 turboprops (also known by its legal name Avia Management Group), intends to further strengthen its position in the bizav segment.

Four of the carrier’s 10 PC-12s are based at Ramenskoye airport outside Moscow. These aircraft fly up to 110 hours per month each as pre-booked air taxis, the most popular destinations being St. Petersburg, Izhevsk, Samara, Cheboksary, Astrakhan, and Nizhny Novgorod.

According to Anton Generalov, chairman of the Avia Management Group board of directors, Dexter’s primary area of business activity is charter flights, which contribute around 50% of the operator’s total revenue.

Asked how many charter passengers Dexter expects to have carried in 2015, Generalov says: “We do not keep tabs on this parameter. We see that our aircraft fly more and more hours year after year; the figure is growing faster than expected. In fact, we only profited from the negative [economic] situation in the country: rather than giving up air travel altogether, many bizav customers are revising their aircraft choices, and Dexter offers a very good quality to price ratio. There are of course some clients who have stopped flying altogether.”

Generalov says demand for Dexter’s charter services has been growing even despite the fact that most Russian bizav customers prefer jet aircraft: “Our task is to persuade the business community to use our airplanes.”

Dexter sees as its competitive advantages the insignificant difference in short-haul flight times compared to jet aircraft, the PC-12’s bigger cabin than those of comparable business jets (such as the Cessna Citation CJ1/СJ2 and the Nextant 400XT), a large modern fleet, the company’s own aircrew and ground technicians, and an MRO facility at Ramenskoye.

“Also, Dexter holds a commercial air carrier certificate,” Generalov says. “We operate in compliance with the Federal Air Transport Agency requirements, which are much stricter than those applied to general aviation. Many of our clients are used to business jets, but they still use our company to optimize costs. One of our clients has a fleet of his own, but he uses our aircraft because it is cheaper than operating his own airplane. Seeing as that client mostly flies short-haul routes, using a big aircraft makes no sense.”

Generalov says Dexter’s clients mainly use business aviation as a useful instrument rather than a status symbol: “They understand that sending personnel on business trips to regions with inferior transport infrastructure will involve additional expenses: the personnel will have to be reimbursed for the off time spent on the road, on the train, at the airport; that is, at all the places where they cannot work normally.”

Dexter expects to additionally benefit from the planned opening of Ramenskoye for commercial operations. “We are looking forward to the commercial launch of the airport; right now we cannot offer it to our clients,” Generalov notes. “We used to have Bykovo (another Moscow airport, now closed – ed.) as our base airport, and hope that Ramenskoye will replace it in this role. The airport’s primary advantages are its low traffic [as compared to Moscow’s three major airports], faster pre-flight procedures, and the inexpensiveness [of basing aircraft].”

As a rule, Dexter’s Ramenskoye-based PC-12s fly to Vnukovo, Russia’s largest bizav airport, to collect customers.

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