Russian air transport continues to make progress, despite ongoing significant challenges, including persistent external sanctions and geopolitical tensions. The recovery of the operating performance of the country’s major airline group, Aeroflot, which accounts for about 44% of all passengers transported by domestic operators, is the main driver of market dynamics.
Based on the results of first nine months of this year, the Aeroflot Group as a whole and its parent carrier managed to increase the overall volume of traffic, and, importantly, international traffic. This growth has been achieved while maintaining a high level of service, with a key and absolute priority on airworthiness and flight safety.
IMPROVING OPERATING RESULTS
From January through September, the Group’s total traffic amounted to 35.8 million passengers, an increase of 14.6% year-on-year, thanks to the continued expansion of the Group’s route network.
Domestic traffic grew to 28.95 million passengers, a 5.6% increase in annual terms. Notably, this figure surpasses the pre-crisis level of 2019 by 12.3%.
Compared to last year, international traffic increased significantly – by an impressive 78.9%. The Group’s airlines served 6.87 million people on international routes.
Revenue passenger kilometers (RPKs) improved by 23% over the course of the year, with international RPKs growing more than two-fold. Available Seat Kilometers (ASK) increased by 17.9%. The total number of flights operated in the first nine months increased by 8.7%, primarily due to international routes, which saw a growth of 47.9%.
Passenger load factor reached 87.6%, an increase of 3.6 percentage points year-on-year. On domestic routes, passenger load factor increased by 3.8 p.p., reaching 89.7%, reflecting the high demand for the Group’s services.
In current environment, Aeroflot airline is the Group’s leader in term of traffic growth. Over the first three quarters, the Russian flag carrier transported 18.94 million passengers, a 19.2% increase year-on-year, with RPKs improved by 30.8%.
The number of passengers on international routes increased by 92.7%, international RPKs doubled, seat load factor increased by 7.6 p.p., and the number of flights operated overseas increased by 76.4%.
In 2023, the airlines of the Aeroflot Group operate with high punctuality. In September, Aeroflot and Rossiya, the Group’s network carriers entered the top five in a ranking of the best on-time performance for the world’s largest airlines (calculated in accordance with the methodology of global analytical agencies (A14) and taking into account data published by airlines according to the OAG agency’s methodology).
The network carriers in the Group achieved a very respectable on-time performance rating of 91.8%.
While continuing to develop connectivity within Russia, Aeroflot is putting a lot of efforts to expand internationally in current challenging environment. In the upcoming 2023-2024 IATA winter season, Aeroflot will perform scheduled flights on more than 80 international routes to 19 different countries. With a high demand, flight frequencies and capacity are increasing. The international network of flights from different Russian cities has expanded, and new foreign leisure destinations have been launched. Compared to last year’s winter schedule, the number of destinations has grown by 10%, while capacity increased by 15%.
Since the beginning of the year, Aeroflot has been actively launching and resuming international flights. The program of its own regular flights to the cities of Kazakhstan – Astana, Almaty, and Atyrau – has been relaunched.
Ganja has become the second city in Azerbaijan (after Baku) where the airline operates flights from its Moscow Sheremetyevo hub.
From St. Petersburg, Aeroflot has launched its own scheduled nonstop flights to Baku and Dushanbe, the capitals of Azerbaijan and Tajikistan, accordingly.
Shortly after the easing of anti-covid restrictions, Aeroflot expanded its program of regular flights to China. Flight frequencies from Moscow to Guangzhou, Shanghai and Beijing were increased. Notably, Aeroflot was the first foreign airline to move its flights to the largest and most modern Beijing Daxing Airport in the Chinese capital.
Turkey, the most popular foreign destination for Russian travelers, holds a special place in the airline’s flight map.
During the summer season, the airline expanded its flight program to Turkey and operated flights from Moscow to six destinations in the country: Istanbul, Antalya, Bodrum, Dalaman, Izmir, and Adana.
Direct flights to Dalaman were resumed, a seasonal regular flights program to Izmir was launched, and non-stop flights to Adana were added.
Additionally, direct flights to various cities in Turkey are operated from ten regions of Russia: Sochi, St. Petersburg, Yekaterinburg, Kazan, Nizhny Novgorod, Novosibirsk, Samara, Ufa, Volgograd, and Mineralnye Vody.
To meet the high demand during the holiday season and summer vacations, flights to different Turkish destinations were operated at an increased frequency. For instance, the maximum number of flights during the peak season reached 49 per week on the Moscow-Antalya route, and there were 42 flights per week on the Moscow-Istanbul route. From Sheremetyevo to Bodrum, flights were operated up to twice a day during summer.
For beach enthusiasts, the frequency of flights to several international destinations has significantly increased. Starting in July, the Aeroflot Group launched flights to Varadero, a year-round resort in the Caribbean.
In July, Aeroflot established direct regular flights between five Russian regions and Thailand. The airline resumed regular flights to Bangkok from Novosibirsk, Irkutsk, Krasnoyarsk and Vladivostok. Additionally, the flag carrier introduced nonstop scheduled flights from Khabarovsk and Novosibirsk to Phuket for the first time.
Thanks to the direct links to these destinations in Thailand, residents of the Russian Far East and Siberian regions can now reach their vacation spots without layovers in Moscow. This significantly reduces travel time and makes journeys to Southeast Asia as comfortable as possible.
The increase in international flights became possible due to a substantial portion of the Aeroflot Group’s aircraft fleet transitioning to Russian ownership.
This year, the Aeroflot Group has tried a new method to acquire aircraft from international lessors that were operating under operational leasing arrangements, without violating Western sanctions, which banned the delivery of commercial airliners to Russia. In September, the Group announced that it had settled its relations with the Irish leasing company AerCap on 18 aircraft.
AerCap withdrew its claims against the Russian side after the insurance company NSK paid compensation to the lessor for these aircraft.
Ownership of the aircraft was transferred to NSK. This company was established in November 2022 as a subsidiary of the Federal Agency for Air Transport, the Administration of Civil Airports, to insure aviation risks in current environment.
In October, Aeroflot completed the insurance settlement with another Irish lessor SMBC Aviation Capital regarding 16 aircraft and one more aircraft under its management, as well as with CDB Aviation (Ireland) for four aircraft. According to the agreements reached, the lessors dropped their claims against the Russian sides both for insurance policies issued by Russian insurance companies and for leasing agreements with Aeroflot. Ownership of the aircraft was transferred to NSK, which paid the settlement proceeds. Funds for the aircraft buyout are allocated by the Russian government from the National Welfare Fund.
Previously, the flag carrier bought eight Airbus A330 and ten wide-body Boeing 777-300ER aircraft from financial leasing.
Currently, the Group has 141 deregistered aircraft, and Aeroflot continues negotiations with other international lessors.
The transition of a significant number of aircraft into Russian ownership allows them to be removed from the foreign registers, providing the carrier with room to maneuver in the current conditions of restrictions on international flights for Russian airlines. This also helps Aeroflot to maintain an acceptable balance of the number of flights with foreign carriers which provide air services to Russia.
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