The route network of Buta Airways, the low-fare daughter company of Azerbaijan’s national airline Azerbaijan Airlines (AZAL), is to rise to 17 destinations this year, Jamil Manizade, AZAL’s first deputy executive director and passenger director, told Russian Aviation Insider on the fringes of the 2019 Aviation Finance and Leasing in Russia and the CIS conference which was organised by ATO Events in Moscow. Currently, the airline operates flights to 14 destinations.
According to Manizade, in mid May the low-cost carrier (LCC) will inaugurate new flights from its Baku Heidar Aliyev airport base to the two Russian destination cities of Ufa and Astrakhan, increasing to six the number of destinations that the Azeri national carrier and its LCC subsidiary serve in Russia.
He stressed that “in terms of marketing and some incentive programmes” both airports provide great support to the airline. Currently Buta Airways and AZAL serve Moscow, St Petersburg, Kazan and Mineralnye Vody in Russia.
Regarding aircraft, he said that next year the LCC plans to increase its fleet by adding “several [more] Embraer 190 aircraft” which are its current workhorse. Currently, the carrier’s fleet has eight of the type but, as Manizade revealed, in the medium term Buta Airways has no plans to operate any other type of aircraft.
As far as the profitability of the low-cost airline is concerned, the AZAL director stressed that, although the Buta Airways project is not a loss-making one, “there are no super-profits” either. “The issue here is not so much about making [big] money, but in not losing a niche, not losing a segment. Because if these steps had not been taken, if we had not created Buta Airways, if we had not managed to take the passenger traffic we are transporting today, then surely someone else would have done so in our place,” Manizade further explained.
Last year, Azerbaijan Airlines transported some 1.89 million passengers and Buta Airways (which is using AZAL’s air operator’s certificate) carried 442,000. Thus, both carriers served a combined total of 2.33 million passengers in 2018. By the end of this year, the combined total growth in passenger traffic for Azerbaijan Airlines and Buta Airways is estimated at five per cent, Pasha Kesamanski AZAL’s press secretary stated earlier this year.
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