8 Apr 2020 11:51

Vnukovo co-owner sees Russian air travel market falling nearly 50% to 60 mln passengers in 2020, "God willing"

MOSCOW. April 8 (Interfax) - Russia's air transport market will fall by about 50% this year due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Vnukovo Airport co-owner Vitaly Vantsev said.

"For the year, I think the market will lose about 50%. While last year we carried 110 million people, roughly speaking, this year we'll carry 60 million, God willing," Vantsev told online publication The Bell.

"In the next three months [the market] will fall by 90%. Of the flights we had, 10% are left. Then, even if everything opens up in June, there won't be a quick recovery. Say Turkey opens in the summer, who will fly there? Europe will open, but who will fly there? Only if for business," Vantsev said.

Vnukovo has so far lost about 95% of its passenger traffic and the number of daily flights has dropped by 90%, he said. The difference in these numbers is due to low seat occupancy and flights that bring back Russians from abroad, which fly empty one way, Vantsev said.

The Moscow airport estimates its financial losses for three months at 2 billion rubles.

"We've closed part of the international terminal. Thank God it's built in such a way that we can close it in sections. We've left three sections of boarding bridges out of 31. They serve evacuation flights. The rest we now don't need to light, heat, so we're spending less money on this. But we can't close the airfield, it operates 24/7, we continue to pay for electricity as usual and we're maintaining services as usual," Vantsev said.

Asked why one of Vnukovo's anchor airlines, Pobeda, suspended flights, he said the low-cost carrier "understands that if it racks up operating losses now, later it just won't ever recover." In this situation it is better to sit on the ground for two months and work out something with leasing companies, he said.

"We would also close the airport, but unfortunately we can't do that. We have a joint airfield. The government division is there, the Federal Security Service division, all this must constantly operate. Otherwise, of course, truth be told, in a situation where 30-50 flights are left, it probably wouldn't make sense to continue operating," Vantsev said.