Data from the Russian United Business Aviation Association (RUBAA) indicates that business jet flights to, from and inside Russia dropped by 12 percent, while passenger counts fell 23 percent, since the chill in East-West relations began in 2014. RUBAA chairman Alexander Kuleshov presented the data on Wednesday at the association-organized Business Aviation Forum held in Moscow.
RUBAA collected statistics from seven major Russian cities: Moscow, St. Petersburg, Rostov-upon-Don, Ekaterinburg, Samara, Nizhny Novgorod and Sochi. “According to industry professionals and experts, these destinations together generate approximately 80 percent of all Russian business aviation traffic,” Kuleshov said. Acknowledging “incomprehensiveness” of the database, he nonetheless stated that, after having spoken to industry professionals and officials, RUBAA came to the conclusion that the air traffic at these cities is a fair indicator of what is going on in the whole of the Russian business aviation industry.
According to RUBAA, the number of business jet flights decreased from more than 50,000 in 2014 to 43,878 the following year and 41,415 in 2016. The number of travelers on those flights also dropped, from more than 160,000 down to 141,000 in 2015 and nearly 130,000 in 2016. In the first four months of this year, nearly 10,000 flights with 38,603 travelers on them were recorded.
Kuleshov explained that, basically, the statistics gathered cover activities of dedicated business jets and VIP bizliners, but not government flights by Rossiya and other operators serving Russian state officials. This is despite the fact that they do use FBO services across the country.
Comparing flight numbers on a year-to-year basis with “the pre-crisis 2014” serving as the line of reference, RUBAA acknowledged the continuing downward trend: -13 percent in 2015; -18 percent, 2016 versus 2014; and -12 percent when comparing the first four months of 2014 to the same period this year. The respective figures for travelers are -13 percent, -19 percent and -23 percent. Notably, the number of passengers is reducing faster than flight counts. However, RUBAA believes that the number of flights is a better indicator of the industry’s condition.
An analysis of international business jet traffic in and out of Russia is based on the following figures: 27,399 flights in 2014; 22,906 in 2015; 20,014 in 2016 and 6,492 in the first four months of this year. In relative terms, the decrease to the 2014 level was -17 percent, -27 percent and -25 percent, respectively. The only glimmer of hope here is that the absolute figures for the first four months of the current year are a bit higher than those of a year ago.
Domestic traffic has been shrinking at lower rates, with 12,366; 11,142; and 10,842 flights in 2014, 2015 and 2016, respectively, whereas the first four months of 2017 saw 3,165 flights. In relative terms, the drop measured to 2014 levels was -10 percent in 2015, -12 percent in 2016 and -15 percent in the first third of this year. RUBAA also noted that the 2014 Sochi Olympic Games brought an uptick in domestic flights, further bolstered by technical ferries since Sochi Airport could only be used to drop off passengers, and business aircraft had to be parked at other airports.
An important and continuing trend in Russian business aviation traffic has been a steadily decreasing share of foreign operators. The drop in their traffic is estimated at -19 percent, -31 percent and -32 percent over 2015, 2016 and the first four months of 2017, respectively.
Meanwhile, local air companies have been making more flights, with their flights up 8 percent, 24 percent and 30 percent over that same span. Their share of Russia’s business aviation traffic has been growing, from 20 percent in 2014 to 36 percent in early 2017. In absolute terms, since 2014 the number of flights performed by local jet operators rose by 30 percent.