Russian Carriers Benefit From Moscow Sheremetievo Expansion

 - November 11, 2016, 9:18 AM
An Aeroflot Airbus A320 prepares to taxi in front of Sheremetievo's Terminal F. (Photo: Vladimir Karnozov)

Russian flag carrier Aeroflot and compatriot cargo operator Volga-Dnepr Group stand to become the main beneficiaries of the ongoing expansion of Moscow-Sheremetievo Airport (SVO), according to the head of the airport administration, Mikhail Vasilenko. The construction program calls for an increase in annual capacity from 35 million today to 80 million passengers in 2026. The airport expects to serve 33.6 million this year.

Vasilenko insists that SVO expansion closely aligns with Aeroflot’s long-term development plan, which calls for it to carry 70 million passengers in 2025. Since 2006, the Russian flag carrier has grown every year except 2008, when it experienced a small traffic decline. Its management continues to push for more growth, sometimes even at the expense of profits. From 2013 to 2015 Aeroflot carried 20.9 million, 23.6 million and 26.1 million passengers respectively. After earning modest profits in 2013, it registered losses in 2014 and 2015.

Volga-Dnepr Group includes the namesake airline operating Antonov An-124-100 ramp air lifters and AirBridgeCargo, which flies 13 Boeing 747Fs and four 747-8Fs. It holds firm delivery positions on a further sixteen 747-8Fs worth $6 billion.

Since SVO began functioning as an airport in 1959, it underwent two expansion efforts in Soviet times, first with the construction of the Sheremetievo-1 terminal in 1964 followed by the German-built Sheremetievo-2 in 1980. A massive infrastructure project that took place between 2007 and 2010 more than tripled the airport’s capacity. That project saw the creation of Terminals C, D and E, as well as reconstruction of the former Sheremetievo-2 into Terminal F.

Plans call for completion of the first phase of the ongoing effort in December 2017, before the FIFA World Cup 2018 soccer tournament in Russia. Under the plans, the oldest structure, Terminal B (formerly Sheremetievo-1) was demolished to clear space for a new Terminal B capable of accommodating 20 million passengers a year. Meanwhile, developers plan to incorporate the nearby Terminal C into a Northern Terminal Complex alongside the airport’s two parallel runways, each 12,000 feet long. Also on the northern side, a new automated cargo complex under construction will carry a capacity of 380,000 tons annually. Last year SVO handled 280,000 tons of cargo and mail, working to the capacity of existing cargo facilities used by the Volga-Dnepr Group, Korean Air Cargo and TNT Airlines.

Further infrastructure development includes an additional fuel station with capacity of 1 million tons of jet fuel and a third 12,000-foot runway to the northwest of the existing pair. Since the existing runways lie so close to each other, the airport cannot handle simultaneous flight operations from both. Adding the third runway would almost double the airport’s capacity in terms of slots.

A passageway consisting of two 6,350-foot tunnels running below the existing runways will connect the Northern Terminal Complex (B and C) and the Southern Terminal Complex (D, E, F). One will house automated trains expected to transport 11.5 million passengers a year. The other will move cargo. Stated construction costs for Terminal B total $305 million, while the passageway costs $245 million, the cargo terminal $85 million and the fuel station $150 million. Schedules call for completion of all the facilities in December 2017. The following year plans call for Terminal C to undergo construction at a cost of $80 million, followed by expansion of the cargo complex in 2020 to handle 680,000 tons of freight. Next, Phase Two will see construction of additional roof space to Terminal C starting in 2022.

Vasilenko hopes that the expansion will not only keep Aeroflot at SVO, but also prompt closely associated carriers to move their Moscow operations there.