Foreign airlines saw a modest rise in the number of Russian travelers

February 14, 2017 Anna Tretyak, special to RBTH
Air France-KLM and the Lufthansa Group reported an increase in Russians flying abroad. One major reason was the stabilization of the ruble in 2016.
Moscow's Sheremetyevo International Airport
The market share of foreign airlines flying to Russia in 2016 and the beginning of 2017 has not changed in comparison with the same period last year. Photo: People queue at flight check-in desks at Moscow's Sheremetyevo International Airport. Source: Dmitry Serebryakov/TASS

Foreign airlines are recovering positions on the Russian market that were lost after the economic crisis and imposition of economic sanctions. Air France-KLM and the Lufthansa Group recorded passenger flow increases, as well as growth in the number of flights.

Air France-KLM saw a slight increase in the number of passengers departing Russia in 2016, which was helped by additional demand and fleet changes during the year, said Yoram Franzen, commercial director at Air France-KLM for Russia and the CIS.

"The stabilizing of the rublе in 2016 contributed to better year over year demand and later slight increase in demand in the Russian air travel market, although differences exist between destination flows (Europe, North America, etc)," said Franzen.

In 2016, Lufthansa Group's passenger flows demonstrated a positive dynamic in comparison with 2015, said Axel Hilgers, the group's director for the Russian Federation & CIS. Passenger flows and the number of flights increased in all directions serviced by the Lufthansa Group. "The growth is rather moderate, yet the movement is upwards," added Hilgers.

Low cost Flydubai told (in Russian) Kommersant that in 2016 it increased passenger flows to Russia by three percent over 2015.

CIS routes see growth

Despite the good news, it’s still too early to speak of a general trend, market experts say. "We can't say that foreign companies are transporting more people in the direction of Russia," said Yulia Domracheva, a spokesperson for Aviasales, Russia's largest ticket search service.

The market share of foreign airlines flying to Russia in 2016 and the beginning of 2017 has not changed in comparison with the same period last year. However, the market share of foreign airlines increased in other directions, said Aviasales. In 2016 the market share of foreign airlines flying to Moldavia grew from 40 percent early in the year to 60 percent by the summer, and currently holds at 50 percent.

Kazakhstan is showing a positive dynamic, from 38 percent in early 2016 to 45 percent in January. Overall, the market share of foreign airlines servicing CIS countries, Uzbekistan in particular, increased from 40 percent to 60 percent in that same period.

Russian airlines are also showing strong growth rates. In January, passenger flows on Russian airlines grew by 23.6 percent compared to the previous year, said Alexander Neradko, head of Rosaviation, during a press conference at the NAIS-2017 industry exhibition.

On international routes the number of passengers increased 25 percent to 2.5 million people, and on domestic routes by more than 22 percent to 4.3 million people. Meanwhile, Aeroflot, Sibir, Utair and other top 20 Russian airlines saw growth of more than 40 percent last month.

Russian companies' passenger figures had been falling for most of 2016. Only in October, when passenger flows increased by four percent, did the market begin to rebound.

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