Saturday, December 15, 2012

Window on Eurasia: More than Half of All Russian Domestic Flights Now Between Regional Capitals and Moscow

Paul Goble

            Staunton, December 15 – More than half of all scheduled domestic flights in Russia are between regional capitals and Moscow, and these carry about 75 percent of all air passengers within the country, a pattern that is “absolutely irrational” and forces Russians seeking to fly from one region to a neighboring even in the Far East one to go via Moscow

            That is just one of the problems with regional carriers in the Russian Federation, according to Rosbalt journalist Sergey Petrov. Indeed, so many have gone out of business or face bankruptcy that “almost half of the country” in the Far East and North is losing its “only means” of transporting people and goods (

            Over the last decade, Petrov reports, the number of regional airports has been reduced by 1.5 times, and of those which are open, “few are capable” of being used by jets. As a result, the Moscow-centric pattern of Soviet times that had been reduced but not eliminated in the 1990s is now more than being restored.

            Moscow itself is doing little or nothing to prevent this, the journalist says, and “since 2008, the government has not carried out a single measure in support of regional aviation.” The central government did adopt “a road map” for this in 2012 and has set new standards for regional carriers beginning with next year.

            Aleksey Mukhin, the general director of the Center for Political Information, says that this is especially sad given Moscow’s support for international carriers of both people and cargo. Indeed, he suggests that what exists now – links only between regional centers and Moscow rather than among regional centers – is precisely what the central authorities want.

            This situation has been reinforced by shortcomings in the Russian legal system, but it has been intensified particularly by the way in which Moscow has provided subsidies. Airlines that carry goods and cargo internationally receive subsidies; those that work within the country don’t. Not surprisingly, the latter have a hard time surviving.

            Indeed, this pattern creates “a vicious circle” out of which the regionals can’t escape, he concludes. As a result, the situation is likely to get worse for many Russians in the regions who are certainly going to have been given the impression that “the government doesn’t need domestic regional aviation carriers.”

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