Russia may ban trans-Siberian flights from Europe to Asia in response to the European Union’s sanctions on the Dobrolyot low-cost airline company, which suspended flights on August 4, the Vedomosti publication reports, citing sources.
Talk of possible transit restrictions on European airlines began soon after the European Union imposed the first sanctions on Russia. However, recent events – the suspension of Dobrolyot’s operations and the fines that Ukraine has imposed on Russian airlines for flying to the Crimea (about USD 8.6 million) – require a response, one source said.
The decision will have to be made by the government, and the relevant consultations are currently taking place at the level of the Ministry of Transport and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
For flights from Europe to Asia, airlines use the shortest route (the trans-Siberian route) and pay Aeroflot for using it. According to a person close to the board of directors of Aeroflot, the airline currently receives no more than USD 300 million per year from foreign carriers. As a rule, Aeroflot uses a large part of these funds to finance the needs of the Russian aviation industry.
The largest payers are Lufthansa, British Airways, and Air France.
A person close to the board of directors of Aeroflot said that Aeroflot would not be able to perform the other operations that commercial airlines generally do not perform, including social transport operation, if foreign companies are banned from flying on the trans-Siberian route and Aeroflot consequently stops receiving these payments.
For foreign airlines, a ban on trans-Siberian flights will increase the lengths of their routes by an average of 1-1.5 hours, said Oleg Panteleev, the head of the analytical department at the Aviaport agency. Expenditures on fuel and personnel salaries will increase, the load on equipment will increase, but the turnover of aircraft will reduce. Considering the very low profitability of the aviation business in general, significant additional costs will put European carriers in a difficult position and significantly unequal conditions compared with Asian carriers: they will not be able to raise prices and it will be impossible to keep prices at the same level because of low profitability.