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Established in 1923, Public Joint Stock Company Aeroflot — Russian Airlines (Aeroflot PJSC) is Russia's largest national carrier and is part of the Aeroflot Group, a state-owned enterprise of the Russian Government. The carrier operates domestic and international passenger services, mainly from its hub at Moscow Sheremetyevo International Airport. As a full member of SkyTeam, Aeroflot operates to 1,052 destinations in 177 countries via the SkyTeam alliance network. The carrier was the first Russian airline company to join IATA, in 1989.
Location of Aeroflot main hub (Moscow Sheremetyevo Airport)
Aeroflot share price
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Part one of this report on European airline market structure and consolidation highlighted that the top twenty airline groups in Europe hold 75% of seats. This is the same share as the top six groups in North America. This equivalence, in market share terms, between Europe's top 20 and North America's top six underlines the huge gap in consolidation progress between the two regions' airlines. It would take a large number of merger and acquisition deals to recreate North America's market structure in Europe, consolidating 20 into six.
This second part of the report is a kind of fantasy, a hypothetical. It suggests an illustrative series of combinations among Europe's top 20 that would approximately replicate the market shares, in terms of seat share, held by North America's top six.
This would require large merger and acquisition transactions involving pairings between members of Europe's smaller top six of Lufthansa Group, IAG, Ryanair, Air France-KLM, Turkish Airlines and easyJet. It would also mean several deals involving second-tier FSCs and LCCs. However, for now the larger deals in Europe remain relatively unlikely, and there are even hurdles to the smaller deals.
Consolidation among Europe's airlines has always been fitful, and truly sizeable deals have ground to a halt in recent years. By comparison, North America has become the benchmark of airline consolidation progress. The announcement that Alaska Airlines is to acquire Virgin America once again highlights the differences in pace between Europe and North America.
This first part of CAPA's analysis of European airline market structure and consolidation compares market concentration in Europe with that of other world regions and looks at the link with profitability. It mainly focuses on comparing Europe with the other two large aviation markets, North America and Asia Pacific, but also gives data on market concentration for all of the other regions: Middle East, Latin America and Africa.
Europe's fragmented airline market is less profitable than its much more consolidated North American counterpart (although, on most measures, Europe is less fragmented than Asia Pacific). Europe's top 20 airline groups have the same seat share as North America's top 6.
Part two of this report considers a possible set of combinations to reassemble Europe's top 20 into six groups matching North America's top six.
Aeroflot Group's operating profit almost quadrupled in 2015. Among listed European legacy airlines, its 10.6% operating margin placed it behind only Icelandair, but ahead of IAG (these were the only others in double digits). This was achieved in spite of the severe recession in Russia, a nation which has been badly affected by falling oil prices and geopolitical events.
Aeroflot has benefited from the consolidation of Russian aviation and from capacity cuts by foreign airlines. The demise of Transaero accelerated the consolidation process in 2015, and Aeroflot will benefit further from this in 2016. The biggest contributor to the Group's 13% rise in passenger numbers was its low cost subsidiary Pobeda, which completed its first full year of operations in 2015. International transfer traffic through Aeroflot's Moscow Sheremetyevo hub also grew.
This year Aeroflot Group plans an acceleration of ASK growth to double-digit rates. Pobeda has launched its first international routes and the Group's regional airlines Rossiya, Donavia and Orenair will return to growth under the single consolidated brand of Rossiya, helped by routes and aircraft taken on from Transaero. The Group's longer-term goal to become one of Europe's top five airlines looks feasible.
Boeing's 777-300ER was a late bloomer. The variant rolled out in 2002 and had its first delivery in 2004. Yet half of the variant's orders were placed in 2010 and beyond. Two of its record years of sales, 2007 and 2011, coincided with sharp rises in jet fuel, resulting in airlines accelerating retirement of their four engined aircraft. Boeing largely kept business within the family, as the 777-300ER effectively rendered the 747 obsolete; Airbus' A340 succession plan was not so clear.
The world's most powerful twin-engine has come to define the long haul fleets of its biggest operators. The largest, Emirates, operates 114 – almost as many as the next three largest operators combined: Cathay Pacific (53), Air France (40) and Qatar Airways (31). The -300ER variant has 796 orders, comprising over half of all orders for the 777 family. A late bloomer became popular. In Feb-2016 SWISS commenced 777-300ER services, its first time operating the 777. United and Kuwait Airways will also take their first -300ERs in 2016. Orders have slowed since the 777X came into the picture, and in Jan-2016 Boeing announced a production decrease. Boeing still needs to sell new 777s to bridge the production gap until the 777X, but airlines are focusing on growth through second hand acquisitions: British Airways is interested, while Turkish Airlines is taking Kenya Airways' -300ERs.
Aeroflot focuses multi-brand strategy as 3Q operating profit doubles, benefits from Transaero demise
The Aeroflot Group more than doubled its operating profit for 3Q2015 and 9M2015. The weakness of RUB served to inflate both revenue and costs, but these two factors cancelled each other. As with other airlines, low fuel prices helped Aeroflot's results, but the underlying driver of its profit improvement was its growing market share and the positive impact this had on unit revenue.
Already Russia's largest airline group, it is benefiting from the weakness of domestic rivals and capacity cuts in Russia by foreign competitors. It is no longer buying a majority stake in Transaero, but is to take over some of its bankrupt rival's routes and this will further extend its market leadership.
Moreover, a successful first nine months for its LCC Pobeda and a plan to merge three of its regional airlines under the Rossiya brand help to sharpen Aeroflot's multi-brand strategy, making it the leader in each main market segment.
On 3-Sep-2015, Russia's leading airline Aeroflot agreed to an offer from Transaero Airlines' shareholders to sell it at least 75% plus one share of number two ranked Transaero. The price requested for control of the heavily indebted and loss-making airline, to be paid within 24 days, was "no more than" RUB1.
Aeroflot chairman Kirill Androsov hailed the deal's “transformational significance" for the Aeroflot Group, saying it was "fully in line" with its strategy". He added that it should help the group in its aims to carry 70 million passengers by 2025 (compared with 35 million in 2014, versus 13 million for Transaero) and be in Europe's top five and the world's top 20 airlines by revenue and passenger numbers.
Nevertheless, Mr Androsov may have been attempting a brave face. The decision was influenced by a government seeking to maintain market and employment stability and also requires tough negotiations with Transaero's creditors. Moreover, Aeroflot faces a difficult choice. Either it tries to maintain Transaero's unprofitable fleet and network, which overlaps significantly with its own, or it must attempt the politically more challenging closure of large chunks of Transaero's operations. Neither option looks easy.