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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

Saturday, Nov. 1


The men and women who dedicate their lives to fitness get their chance to compete for the title of best body in Russia at today’s Grand Prix Fitness House PRO, the nation’s premier bodybuilding competition. Not only will men and women be competing for thousands of dollars in prizes and a trip to represent their nation at Mr. Olympia but sporting goods and nutritional supplements will also be available for sale. Learn more about the culture of the Indian subcontinent during Diwali, the annual festival of lights that will be celebrated in St. Petersburg this weekend at the Culture Palace on Tambovskaya Ul. For 100 rubles ($2.40), festival-goers listen to Indian music, try on traditional Indian outfits and sample dishes highlighting the culinary diversity of the billion-plus people in the South Asian superpower.



Sunday, Nov. 2


Check out the latest video and interactive games at the Gaming Festival at the Mayakovsky Library ending today. Meet with the developers of the popular and learn more about their work, or learn how to play one of their creations with the opportunity to ask the creators themselves about the exact rules.



Monday, Nov. 3


Non-athletes can get feed their need for competition without breaking a sweat at the Rock-Paper-Scissors tournament this evening at the Cube Bar at Lomonosova 1. Referees will judge the validity of each matchup award points to winners while the city’s elite fight for the chance to be called the best of the best. Those hoping to play must arrange a team beforehand and pay 200 rubles ($4.80) to enter.



Tuesday, Nov. 4


Attend the premiere of Canadian director Xavier Dolan’s latest film “Mommy” at the Avrora theater this evening. The fifth picture from the 25-year-old, it is the story of an unruly teenager but the most alluring (or unappealing) aspect is the way the film was shot: in a 1:1 format that is more reminiscent of Instagram videos than cinematic art. Tickets cost 400 rubles ($9.60) and snacks and drinks will be available.



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