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Cruise Control: New Aviation Routes in the Far East
3 September 2021
Aviation plays a crucial role in transportation in the Far East, often in the absence of alternatives

There is no alternative to aviation for passenger transportation in the Far East, and therefore [it is impossible] to develop the Far East without normal transport accessibility — there’s nothing to talk about if we can’t get there — Konstantin Sukhorebrik, General Director, Aurora Airlines.

Far Easterners buy up preferential tickets in a week and a half... The standard of living in the Far Eastern Federal District is inferior to the national average, so the task is to ensure air accessibility, most importantly, within the district. A minimum of RUB 20 billion is needed to begin (for subsidized air flights to the Far Eastern Federal District. — Ed.), and then as we go, we can look for where to find more — Nikolay Kharitonov, Chairman of the Committee for Regional Policy and Issues of the North and Far East, State Duma of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation.

Air travel helps develop the economy and improve living standards

Interregional air travel isn’t just a trip to grandmother’s; it is economic and commercial relations. For some people tourism is a chance to rest, though it is actually business and regional development... The lower people’s incomes, the more social expenses the state is left with: to reimburse the cost of utilities, for child support, for firewood — Alexey Tsydenov, Head of the Republic of Buryatia.

An insufficient number of air routes and frequency of flights in the Far East

It is important for Far Easterners to be able to fly from the capitals to the European part of the country, but it is even more important to be able to get to these Far Eastern capitals, to the centres of the constituent entities. [...] What is accessibility? As a rule, it is the regularity, the frequency of these flights, because if the plane takes off once every two weeks, then there is probably no real accessibility. Accessibility is when on any given day some urgent need can take you from your home to a hospital, a training centre, or to a funeral, which is also a necessity that arises — Konstantin Sukhorebrik, General Director, Aurora Airlines.

Interregional transportation is absolutely essential. The flight should be cheap and regularly scheduled. At present there are flights twice a week, and there are no tickets. It’s like that throughout the Far East. In general, we do a poor job of predicting availability and demand. As in the case of Ulan-Ude: in 2017, there were roughly 1.5 flights a day to Moscow; now there are four of them, and they are still not enough. They all fill up, no matter which direction you take. We established [a route] to Tomsk last year, and there are no tickets, it’s completely full — Alexey Tsydenov, Head of the Republic of Buryatia.

We need to increase the number of flights. Today there is a Vladivostok — Blagoveshchensk flight once a week, but we want one every day so that people will go to the Far East in the summer instead of Turkey. We also want to go to Khabarovsk, Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk... We are reconstructing two airports, but in Tynda (Amur Region — Ed.), deadlines are being pushed back. Deadlines in the Far East shouldn’t be pushed back: we want to develop the Far East at a faster pace — Ivan Abramov, Deputy Chairman of the Committee on Economic Policy of the Federation Council of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation.

Outdated infrastructure in the provinces

The regional aviation fleet needs updating; we all know perfectly well what we are flying on, and the third is the infrastructure. We have it in two parts — we have 11 constituent entities and 11 central airports... but on the opposite side of the route, as a rule, there are regional or small airports, where the infrastructure is outdated, not very comfortable, not the kind of service that we are capable of providing — Konstantin Sukhorebrik, General Director, Aurora Airlines.

State support for intra-regional air transportation

About RUB 13 billion this year [to subsidize air travel in the Far East], and next year we expect around RUB 17 billion. [...] [Intra-regional routes] are subsidized from local and regional budgets, and the amounts are substantial — approximately RUB 4 billion in subsidies for local transportation. Regional authorities know better what routes need to be developed and how to increase the frequency of flights. We will consider the topic so that it is possible to co-finance from the regional and federal budgets — Igor Chalik, Deputy Minister of Transport of the Russian Federation.

Process automation and the development of unmanned cargo delivery

For the new subsidy, we will make it so there is no need to come in to the cashier: everything can be done online. If all the documents are in order, we confirm the reservation... But this is a half measure. We are talking with the Ministry of Digital Development about connecting to the State Services portal, where a digital profile has been created of each citizen. As soon as we come to an agreement with colleagues, a request will be sent in the system, a second later we receive an answer, and tickets can be redeemed immediately — Andrey Chikhanchin, Deputy Chief Executive Officer for Commerce and Finance, Aeroflot.

We start with unmanned cargo delivery. The project has started in four regions: Chukotka, Kamchatka, Yamalo-Nenets, and Khanty-Mansi. Now preparations are underway for the production of drones. 48 routes have been identified. We are working on the technical appearance of the drones in order to understand what sites and lanes they’ll need. In 2022, we will start unmanned delivery. We will eventually move on to passenger transportation in the foreseeable future as well — Igor Chalik, Deputy Minister of Transport of the Russian Federation.

Increased subsidy opportunities, eliminating airport taxes

When switching to new types of aircraft, we will have to establish warehouses for spare parts and technical personnel. These things are subsidized at the Federal level. We could consider the possibility of the Far Eastern airline’s extending these types of support to new Russian aircraft as well as to all the types of Russian aircraft the airline will receive. This would make it possible to flatten out the economic model and not just dump it in the ticket price — Evgeniy Ditrikh, Chief Executive Officer, GTLK.

Concerning economics: modern aircraft are much more efficient than the An-24, a helicopter flight costs a lot more. We need to increase aircraft capacity... Fees for regional airfield infrastructure are in the Guinness Book of Records. We propose eliminating them — Konstantin Sukhorebrik, General Director, Aurora Airlines.

Airport taxes — I absolutely agree (with the proposal to eliminate them. — Ed.). There is also the price of jet fuel to consider. We know about the northern delivery: for two years they’ve been delivering jet fuel, and it’s obvious what it will cost there. The state needs to intervene — Ivan Abramov, Deputy Chairman of the Committee on Economic Policy of the Federation Council of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation.

The material was prepared by the Russian news agency TASS