Azur Air focuses on inbound China tourism to Russia

Azur Air Azur Air plans to launch regular flights to one of the Chinese provinces from St Petersburg (Azur Air)

Russia’s largest charter airline Azur Air has launched regular weekly Boeing 767-300 flights from Moscow’s Vnukovo to Taiyuan, Shanxi Province, China, with the new flight programme targeting Chinese tourists visiting Russia.

The new service’s first passengers arrived in Moscow last Saturday and, until recently, Azur Air has provided only outbound tourist flow support by performing flights from 42 Russian regions to 27 foreign resorts.

Tickets for the new route are being sold with the support of Chinese partners as part of a travel package, as well as being made available on the airline’s own website. “The airline is developing a new business sector. Today, inbound tourism to Russia is one of the most important priorities of the travel industry. In recent years, the tourist flow from China has increased quite dynamically, outpacing flows from other countries and, we believe, will continue to grow in the long-term,” notes Azur Air’s chief executive Yury Stogny.

In 2018, Russia was visited by almost 1.7 million Chinese people, 13.4 per cent more than in 2017. “Given the growing interest in the Russian tourist centres, in the near future we plan to launch regular flights to one of the Chinese provinces from [St Petersburg’s] Pulkovo as well,” Stogny advises.

A simplified visa regime for Chinese citizens is having a positive effect on the People’s Republic of China-Russia tourist flow. According to the intergovernmental agreement, 30-day visa-free entry to the Russian Federation is permitted for organised tourist groups.

All of the elements of Azur Air that interact directly with passengers are ready to serve its Chinese customers, the airline insists. Good examples of this are that a version of the airline’s website is available in Chinese and comfortable, friendly conditions for Chinese tourists have been created at its home Vnukovo International Airport, a hub that has already been certified by the China Friendly programme. The airport’s food courts and retail outlets offer a Chinese UnionPay system and cafes and restaurants provide menus in Mandarin.

Meanwhile, as part of a cost-reduction initiative and with the airline blaming a significant increase in aviation fuel costs and airport charges, Azur Air has been forced to ditch its free hot food service on flights with a duration of less than five hours. From June 1, hot beverages and water will be freely offered to passengers on these flights. Full catering service remains for business class.

The Russian leisure carrier, which operates flights on behalf of the Turkey-backed Anex Tour travel company transported 782 392 passengers in the first quarter of this year, up 8.2 per cent year-on-year. Azur Air ranks 9th in the list of Russian carriers by passenger numbers.

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