Russian flag carrier Aeroflot has launched an international hub in Krasnoyarsk, the second after Sheremetyevo Airport in Moscow. Though it only services domestic flights at the present time, plans are in place for international connections.
A wek.ru correspondent attended the hub opening ceremony. Krasnoyarsk’s authorities have been nursing the idea to create a base airport for more than a year. AiRUnion Holding of brothers Boris and Alexander Abramovich made the first attempt to build an air hub back in the mid-2000s when the region was run by governor Alexander Khloponin. Alas, in 2007, the company experienced major financial problems and quickly went bankrupt leaving the region without its own base carrier Krasnoyarsk Airlines (KrasAir.) The authorities returned to these plans only a decade later but the process was not smooth. The COVID-19 pandemic outbreak was the major hindrance: the hub was to have been launched last year, and it was only in 2021 that Krasnoyarsk’s dream came true.
Krasnoyarsk was chosen for many reasons, not mentioning the regional government’s lobbying skills and power of persuasion. Its geographical position is crucial. The region is located in the center of Russia at the crossroads of Europe and Asia. Earlier, investors had contributed to large-scale modernization of the airport building. Federal budget money was spent on the infrastructure projects, such as the new taxiway, which more than doubles the runway capacity of the airport: from 12 to 28 flights per hour.
"It’s a long-awaited event. Krasnoyarsk is one of the most modern, beautiful, and convenient airports in Russia. Few of them can meet such high technological requirements in terms of sterility, which is important amid the pandemic," Krasnoyarsk Territory governor Alexander Uss said.
According to Aeroflot CEO Mikhail Poluboyarinov who took part in the opening ceremony of the international air hub, Krasnoyarsk has become the second hub for the company after Sheremetyevo. Aeroflot has moved three Boeing 737s to Krasnoyarsk and will add five Superjets later on. The destinations are Sochi, Simferopol, Krasnodar, Irkutsk and Blagoveshchensk.
Aeroflot plans to transport up to 100,000 passengers through Krasnoyarsk this summer and attain the annual target of 1 million passengers a year by 2023 in the absence of force majeure. In 2020, Krasnoyarsk Airport’s passenger traffic made up 1.7 million people. For obvious reasons, it has drastically decreased since it reached a benchmark of 2.5 million in 2019.
"Our investment is more ethical than physical. The regional and airport administrations have already given us all opportunities. We plan to launch international flights from Krasnoyarsk to China, most likely in 2022, and possibly to Asia and former Soviet republics," said Poluboyarinov.
As wek.ru wrote earlier, Cheremshanka airport, which specializes in small aircraft, is located near Krasnoyarsk. Local authorities are planning to join the runways of the neighboring airports, which also fits into the logic of creating a Krasnoyarsk air hub.
"The project’s tentative deadline is 2030. Options are still being worked out. Cheremshanka has been managed by Krasnoyarsk Airport since December 2019. In fact, we are already working as a single production complex," Krasnoyarsk airport CEO Andrey Metzler said.
"We expect the new hub to help reduce prices of flights from Krasnoyarsk. According to Aeroflot, the discount would amount up to 10%," Krasnoyarsk Territory Transport Minister Konstantin Dimitrov told wek.ru.
Meanwhile, the leadership of the neighboring Republic of Tuva and the Russian Transport Ministry are discussing the possible opening of an air checkpoint at the Kyzyl airport in order to launch international flights. The airport has international status, but this is not enough. It needs more advanced equipment. "We cannot solve this issue without support at the federal level," Republic of Tuva acting head Vladislav Khovalyg said.