Pulkovo operational results for 2016 exceed forecast

St. Petersburg’s airport handled 13.265 million passengers in 2016 St. Petersburg’s Pulkovo airport handled 13.265 million passengers in 2016 (Photo by Pulkovo Airport)

Saint Petersburg’s Pulkovo airport handled 13.265 million passengers in 2016, down 1.7% from the previous year, according to Fraport, which manages the airport through Northern Capital Gateway Consortium (NCGC), with VTB Capital and Copelouzos Group. The number of aircraft movements declined by 3.8% to 133,062. The traffic decline was not as significant as the consortium forecasted, apparently, due to the airport’s efforts to attract new operators.

According to its latest estimations posted in October, the traffic was expected to slide 5% by the end of the year. Yet, although Pulkovo’s results have exceeded its pessimistic forecasts, the airport is not living up to the expectations and targets set for it before the downturn. NCG’s shareholders intended to transform Pulkovo into a large-scale international hub, based on the popularity of St. Petersburg with foreign tourists. However, Pulkovo’s base carrier, Rossiya Airlines is controlled by its parent company Aeroflot Group, which follows the strategy of developing its own hub with route network from Moscow. Lack of a common strategy with its base airline is one of the negative factors Pulkovo has mentioned in its reports.

Rossiya estimates that its traffic through Pulkovo increased 2% in 2016, to 4.76 million passengers. At the same time Rossiya has become the largest carrier from Moscow’s Vnukovo.

Facing these difficulties with the base airline Pulkovo is working on attracting other operators. An incentive program has been in place since October to motivate carriers to expand their networks from Pulkovo. It offers discounts on handling services in exchange for new flights. The program is bearing fruit. Russia’s fourth largest airline, UTair, has been expanding its flight program from St. Petersburg since October – it increased the number of flights by 81%, from 42 to 76 per week. In the first three quarters of last year UTair carried 333,500 passengers in and out of St. Petersburg, up 28% from the same period of 2015. There are plans for further expansion in the summer navigation season.

Pulkovo is also developing direct connections with China, as Chinese tourists are showing increasing interest for Russia’s Northern capital. The airport is still counting on the authorities to introduce a 72-hour visa-free period, which would stimulate tourist traffic both from China and from elsewhere in the world.

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