Staunton, February 10 – The Russian government has provided assistance to Russia’s major airline carriers, the ones that carry people from one region to another or abroad and who have been hard hit by the pandemic; but it has done little to save the feeder airlines that bring people from small and mid-sized cities where they can transfer to the majors.
As a result, KPRF head Gennady Zyuganov says, the feeder airlines, which many call “the capillaries of the Russian transportation system, are close to closing down, something that will isolate large portions of the country from other regions, Moscow and destinations abroad (https://svpressa.ru/society/article/289654/).
At a Duma roundtable he organized and chaired, the communist leader said that saving these feeder lines is a question of national survival. Indeed, he said, without this form of aviation, “we cannot be a self-sufficient country.” But ensuring their survival, “small and mid-sized aviation is being destroyed as a class.”
Last June, in an attempt to help these lines save themselves, some Duma deputies introduced legislation that would have removed many of the restrictions such feeder lines have been operating under. Unfortunately, that measure has not yet been approved and further financial aid for them has not been supplied.
According to one of the authors of that measure, Vera Ganzya, the feeder lines have been at risk since at least 1998 when the transportation deprived the regions of the right to have their own airlines, something she says has led to “the territorial degradation of the country” as a whole.
The KPRF deputy adds that everyone understands that feeder lines must be maintained. General purpose aviation is one thing, but what is needed are small lines or branches of larger ones that can take people from the smaller cities and regions to larger population centers. Increasingly, that is not possible.
Igor Chalik, a deputy transportation ministry, says that the survival of feeder airlines is critical and that his agency is currently developing plans to bail out some of them in order to “increase the mobility of the population and give each resident the possibility of easily reaching any point in Russia and the world.”
But for these lines to survive, other participants in the round table agreed, there is a need for more planes of domestic manufacture – now 90 percent of the inventory of the feeder lines consists of planes built abroad – and for more pilots because at present many of these firms can’t recruit enough to keep themselves running.
Beyond that, some speakers said that Moscow needs to consider reopening many of the airports closed over the last 30 years. In 1990, there were 14,500 airports. Now, there are only 240. What that means, they added, is that even if there are airlines, planes and pilots, ever fewer parts of the Russian Federation are going to be connected with others.