Staunton, Apr. 24 – In 2022, the Russian government provided national air carriers with 100 billion rubles (1.4 billion US dollars) in subsidies to cope with the costs imposed by the Western response to Putin’s decision to expand his invasion of Ukraine. But it considered that a one-time deal, something it would not have to do again.
But the carriers, including Aeroflot and its daughter company Pobeda, allocated those subsidies in ways that suggested they expected such subsidies to continue; and their leaders have warned the government that unless that happens, prices for domestic air tickets may go up by as much as 30 percent before the end of the year (versia.ru/perevozchiki-trebuyut-deneg-ugrozhaya-podnyat-ceny-na-bilety).
In the short term, that would likely kill the Kremlin’s program to boost domestic tourism at a time when many foreign countries are off limits to Russians. But in the longer term, it will have far more fateful consequences, leading to a radical decline in contacts among the far-flung regions of that country.
More than almost any other country on earth, Russia relies on air travel to compensate for its lack of highways and railways in large parts of the country. Historically, Moscow has subsidized flights and smaller airports to hold things together. But financial exigencies created by the Ukrainian war are making that increasingly difficult to sustain.
For background on Russian regional air travel, the history of Moscow subsidies, and the decay of Russian domestic air transportation which was in trouble even before Ukraine, see windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2022/05/civil-aviation-most-of-russia-relies-on.html, windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2021/02/moscows-failure-to-subsidize-more-seats.html, windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2022/06/if-moscow-cant-service-planes-now-under.html and windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2021/05/moscow-closes-44-more-airports-in-north.html.