Mar 26, 2020

Insight: A round up of Russian airlines’ passenger traffic performances in 2019

Russia’s airlines collectively carried some 128.3 million passengers last year, a healthy 10.3 per cent improvement on 2018, according to Rosaviatsiya, the nation’s aviation authority. Overall, the airline industry’s growth rate was just marginally down on the 11 per cent of the previous year.

Of the total traffic, 57 per cent, or 73 million passengers, travelled domestically. In the year, the industry’s RPKs increased by 12.6 per cent, reaching 322.98 billion.

Of the 107 organisations registered in Russia as commercial air transport operators in 2019, the top-15 airlines (see chart) were accountable for 92.6 per cent of the entire traffic, with the five largest carrying 64.6 per cent of the total.

Within the big five group, which has remained fairly stable over the last few years, a shift has now become apparent with the advance of Aeroflot Group’s low-cost subsidiary Pobeda Airlines. With a year-on-year growth rate of 43.2 per cent in 2019 it managed to outperform Yekaterinbug-based private airline Ural Airlines and moved up to the fourth place in the ranking, squeezing Utair Airlines out of the top-five list. If the LCC continues its aggressive growth this year, it may overtake sister carrier Rossiya Airlines and compete closely with S7 Airlines, now Russia’s second largest carrier. However, the budget airline is now limited in its ambitions by a seat capacity shortage, as deliveries of 13 contracted Boeing 737 MAXs are still in limbo.

The 2018 growth champion Pobeda was second-fastest last year, having been surpassed by the privately owned Nordavia which, after a rebranding, has re-emerged as Smartavia and through fleet expansion and an increased marketing effort achieved a remarkable 70.9 per cent growth rate.

With a moderate growth rate of 4.1 per cent, flag carrier Aeroflot remains the unassailable market leader in Russia. Its privately-owned rival S7 Airlines merged in the second half of the last year with sister airline Globus and, since the two were listed as separate entities in Rosviatsia’s 2019 report, their individual growth figures unreliably show a rapid growth for S7 Airlines and a decline for Globus. 

As for the future, Russia’s transport ministry forecasts that the growth of passenger traffic for Russian airlines in 2020 will be some seven per cent, which would be the lowest growth rate of the past few years.