[News] Comprehensive program for the development of the air transport

The need to create such a document was announced during a meeting on the development of air transportation and aircraft manufacturing, which was chaired by Russian President Vladimir Putin on March 31, 2022. One of the items of instructions following the meeting suggested that the Government should approve a comprehensive program by June 1 and ensure its implementation. As media reported, at the end of April, the Ministry of Transport prepared the first version of the document, which, however, was sent for revision. The second version of the program

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The Comprehensive Program is a 30-page document containing six annexes. The authors of the program assessed the current situation in civil aviation and the aviation industry in Russia, including forecasting the volume of air traffic, analyzing the aircraft fleet, assessing the prospects for maintaining its airworthiness, and identifying the priority types of domestic aircraft, due to which the fleet will be renewed.

Volume indicators for transportation on domestic and international airlines, according to forecasts, should increase steadily. For 2022, the indicators are set by directive. Airlines will have to serve 90 million passengers on domestic routes (DHL), and 10 million passengers on international routes (IR). By the end of the program, domestic flights should reach 104.5 million passengers, and international flights – 11.6 million. Thus, according to the document, the industry will restore the traffic volumes achieved in 2021 (when 111 million passengers were transported) by 2029 year. The record figures of 2019 (128 million passengers carried) on the horizon of the program will remain unsurpassed.

The recovery of volumetric indicators on domestic domestic air lines will occur at a moderate pace: from 1.2% in 2023 to 3% in 2030. For the domestic air transportation market, such rates are not typical: since the beginning of the century, the industry has either shown much more intensive growth, or, during periods of crises, a large-scale decline. But even with this rally, the average rate of increase in passenger traffic was higher.

The authors of the document note that the nature of transportation on domestic lines will not change radically: they see the optimal configuration of the route network that has developed for 2021-2022. In total, 4,340 routes were served on domestic flights in 2021, but about 480 of them provided 95% of all domestic passenger traffic. However, the question regarding the configuration of the route network remains open: at the very beginning of 2022, the share of the Moscow aviation hub was very large, so some of the passengers traveling from departure points in the Urals or Siberia traveled to Moscow in order to continue their journey on international flights, or in a southerly direction. Today, Moscow is becoming a dead end destination: flights to the EU countries have stopped, and flying south is more profitable through regional hubs. Traffic statistics in the second quarter of 2022 show that Moscow airports are losing passengers, while Siberian air harbors, on the contrary, are increasing their passenger traffic. This trend, while maintaining current external factors, will be long-term.

A significant part of the document is devoted to assessing the current state of the aircraft fleet of Russian airlines and the impact of anti-Russian sanctions imposed by a number of unfriendly states. In April 2022, the fleet of Russian commercial carriers consisted of 1,287 aircraft. Most of the fleet are passenger liners, there were 1,101 of them. Another 84 cars are trucks, 42 are business jets. 60 aircraft are in the fleet in three federal state budgetary institutions, as well as in the Kosmos airline and do not actually participate in commercial transportation.

Two-thirds of the fleet is made up of foreign-made aircraft. At the same time, they account for about 95% of the total passenger turnover. This distribution is quite logical: foreign aircraft have superiority in total seating capacity and are operated on longer lines. In April 2022, Russian airlines operated 120 long-haul and 472 medium-haul foreign-made aircraft, and not a single domestic airliner of this size. But in the segments of short-haul, regional cars and aircraft of local airlines, the superiority was on the side of Russian and Soviet aircraft: 170 domestic short-haul aircraft versus 23 foreign cars, 105 regional aircraft (84 foreign) and 88 aircraft of local airlines (against 39).

A large number of aircraft of Russian airlines – about 700 aircraft – belong to foreign leasing companies. The most common form of transferring aircraft to operational leasing, in which, at the end of the lease agreement, the aircraft is returned to the lessor. Sanctions against the Russian Federation introduced in the first quarter of 2022 implied a ban on the sale of aircraft and helicopters, which also applied to existing leasing agreements. Lessors were instructed to terminate the contracts and seize the aircraft within a month (until the end of March). In addition, the sanctions affected two very sensitive areas of air transport activity: a ban on insurance and reinsurance of assets and bans on the provision of aircraft maintenance and repair services, components and systems. Shortly after the introduction of these restrictions, Western aircraft manufacturers notified Russian operators of the end of support for their products and the termination of the supply of spare parts. In this situation, those leasing companies that were not required to terminate the agreements unilaterally, violating existing agreements, demanded the return of their assets ahead of schedule, fearing a sharp drop in their market value.