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Dobrolyot Shelves Low-Cost Flights to St. Petersburg Amid Pricing Dispute

Published: July 9, 2014 (Issue # 1819)



  • Pulkovo Airport serviced 215,000 passengers traveling between Moscow and St. Petersburg in the first four months of 2014.
    Photo: Facebook.com

Russia's new low-cost airline, Dobrolyot, has delayed the start of flights to St. Petersburg after failing to coax a low enough servicing charge from the city's airport, Pulkovo, a news report said Tuesday.

Dobrolyot, a spinoff of state-owned flagship carrier Aeroflot that launched last month, had planned to begin flights to Russia's northern capital in June, but will now put the route on hold, business daily Kommersant reported, citing sources familiar with the situation. Lowcosters tend to fly out of minor airports for their cheaper servicing charges, but Pulkovo — St. Petersburg's only airport — was not prepared to go low enough, the report said.

"An offer of 800 rubles ($23) per passenger renders the whole budget [airline] project pointless," one source told the paper.

Later on Tuesday, the company that manages Pulkovo Airport told ITAR-Tass that it had made Dobrolyot a special offer on the basis that it was a new carrier, but had not yet received a response. It is not clear what price was offered.

Pulkovo has been reluctant to roll out the red carpet for low-cost airlines before.

In 2011, the Avianova budget airline — a joint venture between Arizona-based investment firm Indigo Partners and A1, part of Mikhail Fridman's Alfa Group — also failed to agree on rates with Pulkovo. The airport said then that lowcosters did not attract new customers, but merely took existing ones from other traditional airlines. Avianova went bankrupt, flying its last flight in October 2011 and leaving Russia once again without a low-cost carrier.

The Moscow-St. Petersburg route is popular: St. Petersburg's Pulkovo said that in the first four months of 2014 it serviced 215,000 passengers traveling between the two cities — a 21.2 percent increase on the same period last year — compared to a total of 200,000 passengers for all other regional routes, Kommersant reported.

Dobrolyot had earmarked Pulkovo as the destination for its maiden flight, but in May Aeroflot general director Vitaly Savelyev said that honor would be given to the Crimean city of Simferopol, recently annexed by Russia from Ukraine to thunderous patriotic applause from Russians. The first flight to Simferopol took off from Moscow last month and routes to Volgograd and Perm start in August.

Andrei Kramarenko, an aviation industry analyst, told the paper that Dobrolyot has little to gain from operating the Moscow-St. Petersburg route, as it only has three planes, one of which is on reserve from Aeroflot, and there is stiff competition on the route between airlines and Russian Railways.

Aeroflot, Rossia, Transaero, UTair, Ural Airlines and S7 all fly between the two cities. A one-way trip to St. Petersburg at the start of August can be bought for as little as 2,274 rubles ($66), compared to 2,790 rubles ($81) with UTair, prices that Dobrolyot may find hard to significantly undercut.

Russian Railways, meanwhile, offers one-way tickets for the beginning of next month aboard its high-speed Sapsan service to St. Petersburg, which has a journey time of about four hours, for 2,844 ($83). Sapsan will increase its carrying capacity on Aug. 1, when it launches its new twin train service, a trick that involves two of its normal trains being joined together end to end.





 


ALL ABOUT TOWN

Wednesday, Nov. 26


AmCham’s Public Relations Committee will meet this afternoon in their office in the New St. Isaac’s Office Center on Ulitsa Yakubovicha at 4 p.m.


Zoosphere, an international exhibition focusing on the pet industry, opens today at the Lenexpo convention center on Vasilievsky Island. Not only will items such as toys, terrariums and accessories be available for purchase, but animal enthusiasts can also learn about the latest in veterinary medicine and behavioral training thanks to the conferences and presentations that are part of the event.



Thursday, Nov. 27


The Customs and Transportation Committee for AmCham meets this morning at 9 a.m. in their office on Ulitsa Yakubovicha.


Tickets are still available for local KHL team SKA St. Petersburg’s showdown with Siberian club Metallurg Novokuznetsk tonight at 7:30 p.m. in the Ice Palace outside the Prospekt Bolshevikov metro station. Tickets can be purchased on the team’s website, at the arena box office or in their merchandise store on Nevsky Prospekt.


Celebrate one of Russian literature’s most tragic figures during Blok Days, a two-day celebration of the 134th anniversary of the poet’s birthday. The tragic tenor’s work, which led to writer Maxim Gorky to hail him as Russia’s greatest living poet before his death in 1921, will be recited and meetings and discussions about his contributions to the Silver Age of literature in St. Petersburg will be discussed in the confines of his former residence.



Friday, Nov. 28


Strategically dominate your foes at the British Book Center’s Board Game Evening. Held every Friday at 5 p.m., aficionados and amateurs alike can come take part in a variety of different games that test one’s intellect and cunning.



Saturday, Nov. 29


Cats, dogs, birds, rodents and reptiles are just some of the things that will walk and crawl at Lenexpo convention center this weekend as part of Zooshow, a two-day exhibition featuring not only man’s best friends but a four-legged fashion show, as well as a food fair that will help pet owners find out more about which kibbles are best for their hungry pets.



Sunday, Nov. 30


Honor the 75th anniversary of the beginning of the Russo-Finnish war in 1939 during today’s reenactment titled “Winter War: How it Was.” More than 200 people will take part in recreating the opening salvoes of the battle for the north in Kamenka, a small village situated between Vyborg and St. Petersburg, using authentic equipment and vintage vehicles from the era. The faux battle begins at 2 p.m.



Monday, Dec. 1


Serbia filmmaker Emir Kusturica is the featured guest this evening at the Lensovet Culture Palace on Petrograd. Fans of the director will get the chance to watch his movie “Black Cat, White Cat,” as well as ask questions about his award-winning filmography. Tickets for the event, which starts at 7 p.m., start at 2,000 rubles ($42.50).



Tuesday, Dec. 2


Today is the final day of “Takoy Festival,” a three-week program of plays based on the works of Dostoevsky, Remarque and other famed European writers, whose work is transcribed for theatrical performances. Tonight’s festival finale is “Fathers and Sons,” a two-act drama staged by the Novosibirsk Academic Drama Theater based on Turgenev’s classic about familial relations.



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