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The passenger air transportation sector in Russia can be characterised by significant competition. Aeroflot is majority owned by the Russian Government and is the flag carrier and largest airline of the Russian Federation. The three major airports serving Moscow are Sheremetyevo International Airport (SVO), Domodedovo International Airport (DME) and Vnukovo International Airport (VKO). Aeroflot dominates the domestic passenger market in Russia, however other airlines also provide frequent national and international services and they include S7 Airlines, Transaero, UTair Aviation as well as VIM Airlines and Nordavia. The Federal Agency for Air Transport of Russia is the government that is responsible for rendering governmental services and managing governmental property in the sphere of air transport (civil aviation) and the usage of air space over the Russian Federation.
Airports in Russian Federation
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Air travel rises with a country's wealth. Law of nature, or can government policy make a difference?
CAPA's extensive country rankings database provides rich pickings for analysis of the relationship between the wealth of a country and the penetration of air travel in that country. Not surprisingly, our analysis confirms that the two are closely correlated. Countries with higher GDP per capita tend to have higher numbers of airline seats per capita.
Establishing a correlation does not indicate the direction of causality, which works in both directions. Economic wealth drives air travel, but air travel also helps to drive economic wealth. However, the correlation is not perfect and levels of penetration can be affected by geographical, political, fiscal and infrastructural factors. This leads to some countries having a significantly higher or lower number of airline seats per capita than might be expected simply from their level of GDP per capita.
Who are the out-performers, in terms of the penetration of air travel, and who are the under-performers? What are the characteristics of each group? How do the main regions of the world compare?
And what role can governments play? - in some cases, they can potentially make a significant difference.
Air Arabia and flydubai have hubs that are no more than 150 km apart and their networks overlap on better than 40 destinations, but the two fierce competitors have remarkably both been able to operate profitably. In 2013, combined, they handled traffic of almost 13 million passengers and earned an impressive combined profit of AED657.8 million (USD179 million).
Even rubbing shoulders as they do, the carriers' outlooks for profitability and growth in 2014 are positive. Both are maintaining the aggressive fleet and network expansion plans that have characterised their behaviour over the past few years.
flydubai is due to receive eight aircraft in 2013; Air Arabia is scheduled to take delivery of 10. As new aircraft are accepted into their fleets, the two will continue to build new connections within the Gulf and wider Middle East region. In addition, both are exploring new markets bordering the Middle East, particularly markets underserved by other Middle East-based airlines.
Russia’s parliament, the Duma, recently adopted a bill allowing Russian carriers to offer different fare classes and non-refundable tickets. The law will enter into force 60 days from its official publication, effectively creating the conditions to allow low-cost carriers to establish in the domestic market. Meanwhile, Aeroflot's planned new LCC subsidiary, Dobrolet, is nearer to its planned launch, reported to be in May-2014 with a service from Moscow to St Petersburg.
At Aeroflot's Capital Markets Day (13-Mar-2014), it provided more details of Dobrolet's business model (close to a pure LCC) and of its planned network development (11 destinations in 2014, rising to 36 after five years). With plans to price its tickets at a discount of 20% to 40%, we assess if and how it can achieve the necessary cost savings to ensure profitability.
In 2013, the Aeroflot Group achieved a 38% increase in net income. ASKs and passenger numbers grew by 14%, reflecting both the strong underlying growth in the Russian market and Aeroflot's powerful market position. Revenue growth, at 12%, did not quite match this, but the Group managed to lower its unit costs and hence drive the improvement in profit.
As the leading airline group in the Russian Federation, Aeroflot has benefited from its government's smoothing of the path to consolidation, while keeping LCC competition at bay. The government is now ready to allow the development of LCCs domestically and foreign LCCs are making their presence felt on international routes.
With Aeroflot now on the verge of setting up its own LCC subsidiary, Dobrolet, CAPA reviews the Group's strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.
Bombardier’s 2014 is about two aircraft programmes, one all new and one that is 31-years old this year.
The company’s new CSeries narrowbody, delayed again at the beginning of 2014, will be the main focus of airline, investor and media investor attention.
However, the Q-Series turboprop has the potential to be Bombardier’s most important aircraft programme this year, with a major deal brewing in Russia.
Market consolidation and a dominant role for Aeroflot have produced the foundations for what is now a sustainable domestic Russian industry.
But it has come at a cost. Russia’s aviation remains heavily concentrated around Moscow and availability of low prices has meant that many potential air travellers are still surface-bound.
As Aeroflot plans its own new LCC subsidiary, there are changes afoot which promise considerable upside in air travel for this potential-rich country. The long-established carrier should again find itself in a strong position to expand profitably, even where new entry occurs.