10 Oct 2017 19:07

FAS chief says merging VIM Airlines with larger carrier makes sense

MOSCOW. Oct 10 (Interfax) - FAS chief Igor Artemyev believes merging financial distressed VIM Airlines with a larger airline makes sense.

"Of course, the best method [in this situation] is to merge it into some bigger, stronger company that is solvent, that has pilots, that can perform maintenance and so on," Artemyev told reporters.

Artemyev said he hadn't heard of any applications to buy VIM Airlines. "First the profile government bodies decide, then at the very end they ask us from the standpoint of anti-monopoly law. So far there has been no request," Artemyev said.

VIM Airline's debts to counteragents - about 10 billion rubles in all, according to Rosaviatsia - become public knowledge at the end of September, after which the airline, Russia's 10th largest, said it was suspending charter flights. At that time, about 200,000 people held tickets for VIM Airline flights, and 40,000 passengers were already located abroad. In order to cope with the situation, the Transport Ministry set up an operational headquarters, including representatives from Rosaviatsia, Rosturizm, Rostrud, S7 Airlines, Aeroflot , Vnukovo International Airport and tour operators. On October 9, the Transport Ministry announced that the program of providing flights for VIM Airlines passengers would end: after October 15, VIM Airlines will stop flying altogether and its fate would be decided by creditors.

The Investigative Committee has opened a criminal case concerning embezzlement in relation to VIM Airlines, and the general director and chief bookkeeper, Alexander Kochnev and Yekaterina Panteleeva were detained. According to investigators, VIM Airlines management continued to sell tickets even after it was clear it did not have the means to provide those services. Company assets were also illegally stripped. The airline owners, the husband and wife team of Rashid Mursekaev and Svetlana Mursekaeva, fled abroad. Their current whereabouts are being established.