Demand for air travel in Russia growing at more than 20%; UTair now #1 domestic carrier; Egypt and Turkey popular’s Andreas Akerman

Our man in Moscow –’s Andreas Akerman – was at Moscow Vnukovo Airport yesterday to send off the first passengers on Yakutia Airlines’ inaugural flight to the Russian Far East destination of Pevek (pop. 6,000). Vnukovo’s deputy sales division head, Leonid Shipil (centre), translated passenger remarks including those of this delighted business class traveller, Ekaterina Raznatovskaya, who was thrilled to finally have non-stop flights. Photo by Andrey Sokolov, head of marketing and advertising, Vnukovo Airport.

As one of the much touted BRIC nations (along with Brazil, India and China), the demand for air travel is often a good indicator of economic development. Last year, Russian air travel was down significantly in the first half of the year, before stabilising in the second half. However, in 2010, traffic is growing rapidly once more. This week’s country profile takes a look at how airports, routes and airlines compare with last May. According to OAG schedule data, total capacity at Russian airports is up 20% this May compared with a year ago.

Russia's top 12 airports Weekly departing seat capacity

Source: OAG Max Online for w/c 04 May 2009 and w/c 10 May 2010

Moscow’s three airports at Domodedovo, Sheremetyevo and Vnukovo account for 52.4% of all Russian airport capacity, compared with 53.4% last year. This May, their combined capacities are up 17.4% compared with 2009, slightly below the national average. With the exception of Ekaterinburg (down 3%), all of the other top 12 Russian airports are reporting capacity growth of at least 10% with Adler/Sochi (plus 54.5%) and Novosibirsk (plus 40.2%) reporting the highest growth rates.

Egypt and Turkey capacity growing fastest; Germany still #1 but shrinking

Analysis of the leading country markets (for scheduled services) reveals that while Germany is still the leading country market, capacity to and from the country has fallen by 8% during the last year. Turkey has now leapt into second place with scheduled capacity growing by more than 50% since last May. Some of this growth may be explained by the re-classification of former charter services as scheduled services. Last May, for example, Ural Airlines operated just two weekly flights from Ekaterinburg to Istanbul, but this May it is offering 38 weekly departures between the two countries, including 16 weekly flights from Moscow Domodedovo to Antalya and 10 weekly flights from St Petersburg to Antalya.

Top 15 Russian country markets Weekly departing seat capacity

Source: OAG Max Online for w/c 04 May 2009 and w/c 10 May 2010

Similarly the growth in scheduled flights to Egypt from 34 per week last year to 65 per week this year shows that Transaero has gone from a single route between Moscow Domodedovo and Hurghada (16 weekly flights) to operating six routes, linking both Moscow Domodedovo and Moscow Sheremetyevo to both Hurghada and Sharm El-Sheik (33 weekly flights in total).

104 carriers operate international services; Aeroflot still #1

A total of 104 different airlines operate scheduled services into and out of Russia, with the national carrier Aeroflot, which recently analysed, still #1 with almost 550 weekly departures. Five of the top six airlines (by frequency) are Russian with Aeroflot followed by Transaero (190 weekly departures), Lufthansa (112), S7 (104), Rossiya (99) and Ural Airlines (85). After that come Aerosvit of the Ukraine (84) and Armavia of Armenia (59). Overall international capacity is up 12% year-on-year in May.

Domestic capacity up 24%; UTair carries most passengers?

Domestic scheduled capacity is up 24% this May compared with last year. S7, Aeroflot and UTair are the leading domestic carriers, though the sprawling nature of the country and the proliferation of small regional carriers, means that no carrier has more than 20% of the domestic market. The top three airlines share around 47% of the total market based on seat capacity, but there are 29 other carriers also operating domestic services.

Top 12 Russian domestic airlines Weekly departing seat capacity

Source: OAG Max Online for w/c 04 May 2009 and w/c 10 May 2010

UTair reported at the end of April that according to Russian Transport Clearing House data for the first quarter of 2010, it was the leading domestic airline in terms of passengers with 889,042. This is an increase of 64.1% compared with 2009. The airline’s fleet comprises a mix of Western-built aircraft (16 737s, three ATR-72s, 14 ATR-42s) and older Russian aircraft (including 19 TU-154s, 31 TU-134s and eight Yak-40s). According to OAG data, it still ranks second in terms of capacity to S7, but if its load factors are significantly better, then it could indeed be transporting more passengers than its rival. It already operates more Russian domestic flights than any other carrier.

One of the fastest growing airlines is new low-cost carrier Avianova which currently has a 1.4% share of domestic capacity. The airline recently won a €URO ANNIE award for being the biggest new airline in Europe. Having established a base in Moscow (first in Vnukovo and then moved to Sheremetyevo), the airline is now looking starting routes from St Petersburg.


  1. Frank says:

    To count Eurasian airline the biggest new airline in Europe is a bit curios. The 2009 downtur in former CIS was realy deep.

    • Replying from Moscow, Europe:
      We looked at airlines’ European capacity, irrespectively of where the airlines actually are based, which we considered more logical and fair than curious. In the case of the winner, Avianova, it is, however, a perfectly European airline anyway, being based in the European part of Russia and even operating almost exclusively intra-European flights.

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