St Petersburg’s Pulkovo airport re-defines its roadmap for future upgrades

St Petersburg's Pulkovo The major factors behind LED's growth are a combination of the increase of connections with China, the further development of the airport's route network (Pulkovo)

St Petersburg’s Pulkovo airport (LED) is finalising its plans for the second phase of a prodigious reconstruction project launched initially in 2010. The latest masterplan for Russia’s fourth largest airport’s further development is scheduled for approval in the first quarter of 2019, reveals Vladimir Yakushev, general director of the airport’s concession operator Northern Capital Gateway (NCG).

The original concept, developed in 2014 after the first level of reconstruction was completed, is now outdated and has had to be revisited, he explains. “In the four years [since] everything has changed – the passenger traffic numbers, the trends, the available technology. So we are reviewing the sequence of stages, to keep in line with these new developments,” Yakushev admits.

The existing terminal, built in 2013, is expected to breach its annual capacity limit of 18 million passengers as traffic growth, which hit 22 per cent in 2016, is projected to achieve 11 per cent this year and is likely to continue, albeit at a slower rate, Yakushev adds. The major factors behind the airport’s growth projections are a combination of the continuing increase of connections with China, the further development of the airport’s route network spurred by the on-going incentive programme offered by NCG jointly with the administration of St Petersburg, and the continuous expansion of several Russian airlines’ programmes at Pulkovo.

Pobeda, Aeroflot’s low-cost subsidiary, remains the growth leader at the airport, having generated 300,000 additional passengers for Pulkovo in the first eight months of this year with an array of new routes. It is followed by S7 Airlines, which enjoyed 17 per cent traffic growth through Pulkovo in the same period. That airline now bases several of its aircraft at LED and is continuing to expand its presence there. At the same time, Yekaterinburg-based Ural Airlines is working on ambitious Pulkovo plans, in advance of taking delivery of new-generation western-built aircraft.

These positive developments describe a new era in the airport’s history and NCG is continuously searching for ways to support this momentum by redefining St Petersburg airport’s inner landscape and by implementing modern technologies such as remote baggage check-in, for example. Although fluctuations of the Russian rouble may temporarily alter the balance of inbound and outbound flows of tourists, at the end of the day these fluctuations counterbalance each other, Yakushev philosophically explains. Undaunted by such trends, just this spring the airport launched three 24/7 ‘multi check-in’ counters, where passengers can leave their baggage and check in for the flight on any airline. Other recent improvements include remote check-in facilities at larger hotels for groups of tourists, automated baggage check-in and managing the flow of passengers through the terminal by using CCTV technology.

In the latest outlook, Pulkovo is getting ready to start servicing Emirates’ A380 Airbus for seasonal flights to Dubai and, in the winter timetable, NCG has recently announced eight new scheduled routes, all of them international, to Bergamo, Istanbul’s Sabiha Gokcen, London’s Stansted, Navoi in Uzbekistan, Guiyang and Hainan in China, as well as Germany’s Dresden and Spain’s Alicante.

More distant plans include preparations for staging the UEFA Champion’s League, for which St Petersburg will be the only host-city in Russia, building on the experience of this year’s FIFA World Cup.

In the first eight months of this year Pulkovo handled 12.2 million passengers, up 11.1 per cent on the same period of last year. Its international traffic grew faster than domestic, 15.7 per cent up compared to 4.9 million.

NCG is co-owned by Russia’s VTB Capital, Germany’s Fraport AG and Qatar Investment Authority.

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